Twenty-five percent of breast cancer survivors report financial decline due to treatment

Four years after being treated for breast cancer, a quarter of survivors say they are worse off financially, at least partly because of their treatment, according to a new study led by University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers. In addition, 12 percent reported that they still have medical debt from their treatment.Financial decline varied significantly by race, with Spanish-speaking Latinas most likely to be impacted. Debt was reported more frequently in English-speaking Latinas and Blacks, the study found. Results appear in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.”As oncologists, we are proud of the advances in our ability to cure an increasing proportion of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. But as treatments improve, we must ensure that we do not leave these patients in financial ruin because of our efforts,” says study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School.The researchers surveyed women in Detroit and Los Angeles who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, based on data obtained from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results population-based registry. Women were surveyed about nine months after diagnosis and again about four years later, with 1,502 women responding to both surveys.The surveys asked about patients’ perceptions of whether they were worse off financially since their diagnosis, and whether that has caused long-term challenges. For example, patients were asked if they had altered their medical care because of financial concerns, by skipping medication or by missing a doctor’s appointment or a mammogram. Other questions looked at broader hardships, such as going without health insurance, having utilities turned off or moving out of their home.Blacks and English-speaking Latinas were more likely than Whites to have experienced one of these issues. Other factors that made a woman more likely to experience these hardships include age under 65, household income under $50,000, part-time work at diagnosis, reduced work hours after diagnosis, lack of substantial prescription drug coverage, breast cancer recurrence, and undergoing chemotherapy.”These patients are particularly vulnerable to financial distress,” Jagsi says. “We need to ensure appropriate communication between patients and their doctors regarding the financial implications of a cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions to help reduce this long-term burden.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. …

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Managing Your Finances (BMO Scavenger Hunt)

Managing Your Finances (BMO Scavenger Hunt) Emily Dickey posted this in UncategorizedThis post brought to you by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. All opinions are 100% mine.It’s the last week of the BMO Harris Bank Scavenger Hunt Sweepstakes! Have you been entering each week and getting great new tips for your financial milestones? I have! Even if some of the previous weeks haven’t quite applied to where you are at this point in your life (buying a home or having a baby), this week is for everyone!Week 5 is all about managing your finances. After college when I entered the “real world,” I always said–why wasn’t there a mandatory class in college (or even high school) about finances?! Taxes, mortages, types of insurance…

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Window Cleaners Fined Over Compensation Failings

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 2 » Window Cleaners Fined Over Compensation FailingsWindow Cleaners Fined Over Compensation FailingsJason Mawson, the boss of a County Durham window cleaning company, has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over compensation insurance failings.Darlington Magistrates’ Court was told that Mr Dawson operated a window cleaning company that traded as We-aredale Cleaning and offered local residents their services on a door-to-door basis.Part of his role as an employer required him to hold insurance against injury or disease liability.This would enable his workers to claim compensation for any industrial accident that took place, but his failure to have cover in place left his workers at risk.An inspector from the HSE asked Mr Mawson to produce his insurance certificate a number of times, but he repeatedly failed to do so, even when presented with a formal notice in September 2013.For failing to have adequate compensation cover in place, Mr Mawson was fined £100 and told to pay £755 in costs after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.This statute dictates that employers must, at all times, have a relevant insurance policy in place to allow staff to claim redress in the event of an accident.”As well as being a legal requirement, Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance offers important protection for employers and employees alike,” HSE inspector Victoria Wise said.”Without it, if a worker becomes ill or is injured at work, they will not be able to claim compensation from the employer. For employers, insurance covers the cost of legal fees and compensation payouts in the event of a claim by a worker.”In 2013-14 some 148 workers in the UK died as a result of injuries at work and thousands more suffered industrial diseases caused by issues their employer was liable for.But despite this, many small businesses neglect their obligation to arrange Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance, leaving workers out of pocket and at risk of financial insolvency.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Wealthy neighborhoods fuel materialistic desires, study says

Where you live could affect whether or not you spend compulsively, according to new research from San Francisco State University published today in the Journal of Consumer Culture.Individuals who live in wealthy neighborhoods are more likely to have materialistic values and poor spending habits, the study says, particularly if they are young, living in urban areas and relatively poor compared with their surroundings. The study is the first to show a connection between neighborhood socioeconomic status and materialism.The reason for the link, said co-author and SF State Associate Professor of Psychology Ryan Howell, may have to do with “relative deprivation,” or the feeling someone gets when they believe they are less well-off than those around them. If someone is bombarded with images or reminders of wealth, such as an abundance of investment banks nearby or neighbors driving luxury cars, they are likelier to feel a need to spend money they may not have to project an image of wealth they don’t actually possess.”People who live in more affluent areas are vulnerable to this implicit social comparison, where you start to see other people spending a lot of money,” Howell said. “Because you feel the need to live up to that standard, you end up impulsively buying material items, even though they don’t actually make you happier.”To conduct the study, researchers determined a neighborhood’s socioeconomic status by looking at its per-capita income and poverty rate as well as the number of financial institutions present. That information was compared with survey data measuring participants’ materialistic values, views about money and spending, and savings habits. After controlling for age, gender and individual socioeconomic status, researchers found residents of wealthier neighborhoods were likelier to be materialistic, spend compulsively and manage their money poorly than those living in less well-off areas.The effect was seen especially in younger people, who Howell said tend to be more materialistic in general, those who live in urban areas, where residents are exposed to a larger socioeconomic spectrum, and those whose individual socioeconomic status is lower than their neighborhood’s. Conversely, someone with a high individual socioeconomic status was less susceptible to such behavior.”We did find that individual socioeconomic status is negatively correlated with materialism, so the more money you have for yourself, the less materialistic you are,” said Jia Wei Zhang, lead author of the study and current University of California, Berkeley graduate student who conducted the research with Howell while an undergraduate at SF State. “But it doesn’t fully negate the effect of a wealthy neighborhood. Regardless of how much someone is worth in general, the richer their neighborhood, the more likely they are to be materialistic, independent of their own socioeconomic status.”The next step in the research, Howell said, is to explore whether there are ways to counter a neighborhood’s effect on an individual’s materialistic values. This could be done simply by making more people aware of the correlation, or through interventions developed to make people feel more grateful for their status. …

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The Fundamental principle of Life Insurance

The Fundamental principle of Life InsuranceFor empathizing the meaning of insurance first of all one has to interpret the procedure of this insurance. The primary point of this procedure is that insurance policy holders refer to the customers or the individuals who helped the insurance. The insurance premium on the other hand is the sum of money that the policy holder devotes every month or over a certain period hinging upon the contract to the insurance firm. The insurance company functions as the medium where the policy holder pays her/his insurance premium & maintains the advantages intended for the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries stand for the family or specified dependent that will receive the benefit of the policy holder’s life insurance.Having insurance also requires decision-making, like …

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Mesothelioma Lawyers – Three Crucial Questions You Must Ask Your Lawyer

After receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma you have to look for a reputable and qualified mesothelioma Lawyer to litigate your case for you. As a mesothelioma victim you are entitled to receiving substantial monetary compensation from the company that probably exposed you to the harmful effects of asbestos fibers which led to your development of the cancer.Choosing your mesothelioma lawyer can be daunting task, you just have to choose right or else you stand the chance of loosing out on getting the compensation you deserve. Your Lawyer will determine whether or not you are successful in your mesothelioma LawsuitBefore you make up your mind on your choice of Lawyer you have to set up a meeting with your prospective Lawyers and make sure you ask them …

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Are Canadian Under Insured?

According to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, more then 20 million Canadians are protected by life insurance with an average amounts owned were $156,200 for insured individuals and $312,200 for insured households. That leaves approximately 30% of individuals without important insurance protection as well insured households only having an average amount of $312,200 of life insurance, this could represent many families being underinsured in Canada. Creating awareness around the need for life insurance is paramount there are many brokers and insurance agencies in Canada available to help with your insurance needs, call a insurance professional whether you are protecting your family your business there is help out there. Author: Peter C. Choma an insurance specialist with Solutions Financial Reference: Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. 2008 Edition …

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Delaying climate policy would triple short-term mitigation costs

Sep. 12, 2013 — Higher costs would in turn increase the threshold for decision-makers to start the transition to a low-carbon economy. Thus, to keep climate targets within reach it seems to be most relevant to not further postpone mitigation, the researchers conclude.”The transitional economic repercussions that would result if the switch towards a climate-friendly economy is delayed, are comparable to the costs of the financial crisis the world just experienced,” lead-author Gunnar Luderer says. The later climate policy implementation starts, the faster — hence the more expensive — emissions have to be reduced if states world-wide want to achieve the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. A binding global agreement to implement the emissions reductions required to reach this target is currently still under negotiation, while global emissions have continued to rise.”For the first time, our study quantifies the short-term costs of tiptoeing when confronted with the climate challenge,” Luderer says. “Economists tend to look at how things balance out in the long-term, but decision-makers understandably worry about additional burdens for the people and businesses they are responsible for right now. So increased short-term costs due to delaying climate policy might deter decision-makers from starting the transformation. The initial costs of climate policies thus can be more relevant than the total costs.”Future energy price increases could be limitedThe researchers investigated a number of cost dimensions, including climate policy effects on energy prices. If emissions reductions are delayed beyond 2030, global energy price levels are likely to increase by 80 percent in the short term. Such price increases are of particular concern because of the burden they put on the world’s poor. …

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Is bigger really better when it comes to size of labor wards?

Sep. 9, 2013 — New research reveals that large labor wards — those handling 3,000 to 3,999 deliveries annually — have better overall approval rates compared to small, intermediate or very large obstetric units. The study, appearing in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggests that greater access to in-house obstetricians and auxiliary specialists contributes to the lower obstetric injury claims from patients at large labor wards in Denmark.Nearly one million children were born in Denmark over a 15-year period, with a noted downward trend from 69,000 births in 1995 to 63,440 in 2009. While obstetric injuries are rare, they can be severe or fatal when they do occur. During the same time period, the Danish Patient Insurance Association (DPIA) provided compensation of nearly 300 million Danish kroner (40 million €; $53 million U.S.) for approved obstetric injury cases.For the present study, researchers reviewed DPIA obstetric claims with 1,326 included in the analysis. Financial compensation from DPIA is granted if one or more of the following conditions are met:1. If an experienced specialist in the field in question would have acted differently during examination or treatment thereby avoiding the injury — the “specialist rule,”2. if the injury is caused by defects in, or malfunction of the technical equipment used in association with investigations or treatment,3. if the injury might have been avoided using another available treatment, and this was considered to be equally safe and potentially to offer the same benefits,4. if the injury encountered is serious and more extensive than the patient should be expected to endure.The claims were categorized based on size of the labor unit with small units performing less than 1,000; intermediate at 1,000 to 2,999; large at 3,000 to 3,999; and very large wards with greater than 4,000 deliveries per year.Analysis shows that the overall approval rate for submitted obstetric claims was nearly 40%. …

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New research gives answers on the relationship between chronic illness and food insecurity

Aug. 30, 2013 — Research findings provide direct evidence that people with chronic diseases are more likely to be food insecure — that is suffering from inadequate, insecure access to food as a result of financial constraints. Previous research has shown that food insecurity rates are highest among low-income households, in households reliant on social assistance, reporting Aboriginal status, renting rather than owning their dwelling, and lone-parent female-led (see recent annual report from PROOF). Even taken together though, these factors provide only a partial explanation for the vulnerability to food insecurity. New research by investigators at the Universities of Toronto and Calgary suggests that adults’ health status is another determinant of whether or not households experience food insecurity.Share This:The researchers used Statistics Canada data to examine how the health status of adults influenced the chances of their households being food insecure. Adults with chronic health problems (e.g., back problems, arthritis, migraines, diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness) were more likely than those without such health problems to live in food insecure households. The researchers found a ‘dose-response’ relationship whereby the more chronic health problems someone had the more extreme their experience of food insecurity.The researchers suggest two main reasons for these findings: 1. The additional cost of managing illness (drugs, travel to and from appointments, special dietary needs etc.) results in people having less money to buy food, and 2. Coping with chronic illness also is likely to limit people’s ability to manage with scarce resources — to shop around for bargains, to negotiate with creditors, to seek assistance from family, friends and charitable programs and employ the other tools that people have to use to try and manage the competing demands on their budget.The study gives health professionals and policymakers new information to design interventions to prevent people with chronic illnesses from experiencing food insecurity and to lessen impacts on their immediate and long-term health.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. …

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New technology protects against password theft and phishing attacks

Aug. 21, 2013 — New technology launched today by Royal Holloway University, will help protect people from the cyber attack known as “phishing,” believed to have affected 37.3 million of us last year, and from online password theft, which rose by 300% during 2012-13.Phishing involves cyber criminals creating fake websites that look like real ones and luring users into entering their login details, and sometimes personal and financial information. In recent months, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) has successfully launched phishing attacks against employees of the Financial Times to enable them to post material to its website, and mass attacks were launched within Iran using a fake Google email, shortly before the elections.Scientists from Royal Holloway have devised a new system called Uni-IDM which will enable people to create electronic identity cards for each website they access. These are then securely stored, allowing owners to simply click on the card when they want to log back in, safe in the knowledge that the data will only be sent to the authentic website. A key feature of the technology is that it is able to recognise the increasing number of websites that offer more secure login systems and present people with a helpful and uniform way of using these.”We have known for a long time that the username and password system is problematic and very insecure, proving a headache for even the largest websites. LinkedIn was hacked, and over six million stolen user passwords were then posted on a website used by Russian cyber criminals; Facebook admitted in 2011 that 600,000 of its user accounts were being compromised every single day,” said Professor Chris Mitchell from Royal Holloway’s Information Security Group.”Despite this, username and password remains the dominant technology, and while large corporations have been able to employ more secure methods, attempts to provide homes with similar protection have been unsuccessful, except in a few cases such as online banking. The hope is that our technology will finally make it possible to provide more sophisticated technology to protect all internet users.”Uni-IDM is also expected to offer a solution for people who will need to access the growing number government services going online, such as tax and benefits claims. The system will provide a secure space for these new users, many of whom may have little experience using the internet.

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Characteristics of family killers revealed: The male dominated crime most common in August

Aug. 15, 2013 — Of all the dark forms that murder can take, the slaying of a family by the father is one of the most tragic and the least understood. This first ever study of British ‘family annihilators’, published in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, has analysed three decades of cases and reveals four new types of annihilator.”Family annihilators have received little attention as a separate category of killer,” said Professor David Wilson, one of the paper’s three authors, and Director of the Centre of Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University. “Often they are treated like spree or serial murderers, a view which presupposes traits, such as the idea that the murderer ‘snaps’, or that after killing their partner or children the killer may force a stand-off with the police.”Using newspaper archives to analyse three decades of family annihilation, from 1980 to 2012, the paper’s authors identify shared characteristics of the killers, but four different types. Newspapers acted as an invaluable source of information as very few of these ‘family annihilators’ had criminal records or were known to mental health services beforehand. Some were serving police officers.The paper reveals the first composite picture of family annihilators, revealing trends such as gender, age, motivation and even the most likely month and day that a man will annihilate his family.”The clearest unifying factor is that this is overwhelmingly a male crime. While 71 family annihilators were identified, 59 were male,” said Professor Wilson. “We also found that the rate at which this type of crime is being committed has increased, with the first decade of the 21st century claiming over half of all cases.”Over half of these men, 55%, were in their thirties; 10% were in their twenties and the oldest was discovered to be 59.August was found to be the most common month for the killing to take place, accounting for 20% of cases. Just under half of all murders were committed over weekends, especially on a Sunday.”This is partly because the father had access to his children in the middle of the school holidays when he is not at work,” said Wilson. “There may also be a symbolic factor as estranged fathers know that by the end of the weekend they will have to hand their children back to the mother.”81% of the men attempted suicide after the act, which refutes the traditional idea that family annihilators may force the police to shoot them, as is common with spree murderers. …

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Feeling left out can lead to risky financial decisions

Aug. 1, 2013 — People who feel isolated are more inclined to make risker financial decisions for bigger payoffs, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention.In a presentation entitled “Effects of Social Exclusion on Financial Risk-Taking,” Rod Duclos, PhD, assistant professor of marketing at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, described several experiments and a field survey that found the more often people felt excluded, the more they chose the longer odds for bigger lottery payoffs, took greater risks with their finances, bet on horse races and gambled in casinos.”In the absence of social support, forlorn consumers apparently place more value on the power of money to secure what they want socially,” he said.In one experiment, 59 students played an online ball-tossing game designed to make them feel socially included or excluded. In a separate setting, they chose between two hypothetical gambles with very different odds, Duclos said. The socially excluded participants favored the riskier option more strongly than their included counterparts.A second experiment used essay writing to make 168 students feel either excluded or included and found that the socially excluded participants were twice as likely to gamble as the students who felt included, he said. Another experiment with 35 students ruled out lower self-esteem as a trigger for risk-taking, through essay writing and a choice of lotteries. In a fourth experiment with 128 students, researchers found those who felt isolated did not take more risks than others if they were told that having more money would no longer result in social benefits.For a real-world demonstration, a team of trained research assistants interviewed individuals at malls, parks and subway stations, according to Duclos. They asked participants to choose between two lotteries, one that offered an 80 percent chance to win $200 and a 20 percent chance to win nothing and another that offered a 20 percent chance to win $800 and an 80 percent chance to win nothing. The research assistants then asked participants what proportion of their disposable income they had in low versus high-risk investments, how often they bet on horse racing, how often they gambled in casinos, and how often on a scale of 1-4 (1 = never, 4 = often) they felt socially excluded. There were clear positive relationships between the degree to which participants felt socially excluded and how much risk they took, Duclos said.”Some marketers with questionable ethics may target demographic groups likely to suffer from social exclusion, such as the elderly, divorcees, and widows or widowers,” Duclos said. “Others may be tempted to isolate, physically or psychologically, prospective clients during financial negotiations since doing so may result in larger commissions. …

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Should we be personally or financially responsible for our health?

June 18, 2013 — Free and equal access to medical treatment has been a staple of the Danish welfare state, but more and more Danes express the view that people treated for lifestyle diseases like smoker’s lungs or obesity should pay for their own treatment — as these patients are thought to be responsible for their own medical conditions. The logic behind this view is, however, dubious, says PhD Martin Marchman Andersen from the University of Copenhagen. In a new thesis, he shows how difficult it is to defend the claim that people are responsible for their health and that it is very unclear what they should be held cost-responsible for.”It is a tempting idea that we could cut health expenses by letting patients suffering from so-called lifestyle diseases pay for their own treatment. But this requires that we as a society can justify the claim that these people actually are responsible for their own conditions — particularly in a welfare state where we have free and equal access to medical treatment. It is not, however, a claim that is easy to justify if we accept that we are products of genetics and social circumstances,” says PhD Martin Marchman Andersen from the University of Copenhagen.Free will vs. genetics and social legacyIs it our own responsibility?A 2011 survey from the University of Copenhagen showed that almost 50 percent of the Danes believe that obese people should pay for their own obesity operations if they are shown to be responsible for their conditions. And according to Martin Marchman Andersen, these ideas are gaining ground as the Scandinavian welfare states struggle in the wake of the financial crisis and as we learn more and more about the causes of lifestyle diseases.”The main argument of why we should be held responsible for our own health is the belief that we have free will; free will is the idea that we are the causes of our own actions and that our behaviour is not triggered by external factors. So if we say that a young man takes up smoking of his own free will, we also say that there is no previous cause. But it is very difficult to imagine that there is no previous cause at all, for instance that everybody the young man knows is a smoker and that he therefore would be an anomaly if he did not take up smoking,” Martin Marchman Andersen points out and adds:”The point is that the causal relationships within biology, sociology, and psychology we usually employ when we want to understand human behaviour must apply to lifestyle diseases too. It is not very likely that a young man who takes up smoking is immune to his genetic make-up or his social circumstances in such a way that we can justify the claim that he is responsible for smoking.”This does not mean that patients can never be held responsible, but we need other arguments than the ones we have used so far. …

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Workplace and financial stress lead to poor health choices

June 12, 2013 — Two studies from the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington highlight the negative impact workplace and financial stress can have on health behaviors. The lead author urges workplace wellness and smoking cessation programs to consider such impacts as the economy sputters along.A study published online in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research found that men and women who smoked daily reported that their smoking increased when conflict from work affected their home life. Women also reported the inverse: increased smoking when home conflict affected their work.A second study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine looked at health behaviors practiced by almost 4,000 men and women before and after the recession began in 2008. Health behaviors, such as exercise and attention to nutrition, generally improved as the recession set in — except for study participants who reported financial struggles.”There’s growing evidence that work-family conflict is related to a range of negative health behaviors, and it’s something for workplace wellness programs to take into consideration when they’re trying to get employees to engage in healthier behaviors, whether it’s physical activity, nutrition or quitting smoking,” said Jon Macy, lead author of both studies and assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Public Health-Bloomington.The study “The association between work-family conflict and smoking quantity among daily smokers,” involved 423 adult Midwesterners who smoked daily. The study is unique because it examined the behavior of smokers; earlier studies tended to examine whether someone smoked, not whether the quantity of smoking fluctuated.”Wellness programs are becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace,” Macy said. “If a program is going to deal with smoking, given how difficult it is for people to quit, it might be more successful by looking at some of the underlying issues. Our findings suggest that work-home conflict is one area that should be looked at and addressed in cessation counseling.”The study also found that employees who reported more lenient workplace smoking restrictions smoked more.”It’s another intervention that seems to work,” Macy said. “We know from lots and lots of research that smoke-free air policies in the workplace result in reduced smoking either in the form of quitting or smoking fewer cigarettes per day.”Participants for both studies were drawn from the IU Smoking Survey, a longitudinal study that began in 1980. The study “Predictors of health behaviors after the economic downturn: a longitudinal study” involved 3,984 men and women ages of 37 to 50.The researchers asked study participants about five health behaviors:*Whether they looked at food labels to determine food’s health value when they shopped.*How often they chose what to eat based on food’s health value.*How frequently they performed vigorous physical activity.*Whether they always wore seatbelts.*Whether they smoked.They looked for a relationship between these behaviors and three work-related factors:*Change in work hours.*Change in employment status — full time, part time, unemployed, temporarily laid off or student employment.*Financial strain related to basic needs.Overall, health behaviors improved after the recession, which is a finding of some previous studies.”When you look at the entire sample, health behaviors improved during a period that included a major recession,” Macy said. “However, those most affected by the recession, those with the most financial strain, were least likely to abstain from smoking, to exercise or to engage in healthy eating behaviors.”Workplace wellness programs have become increasingly common. …

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‘Lending circles’ help low-income communities join the financial mainstream, study suggests

June 4, 2013 — An innovative financial lending program is helping low-income individuals build credit, reduce debt and find their financial footing, according to a pair of studies released today from San Francisco State University’s César E. Chávez Institute (CCI).Lending Circles, a program managed by the nonprofit Mission Asset Fund, dramatically improved credit scores for low-income residents of San Francisco, the studies found. In addition, the reports suggest the program can be successfully replicated in other communities and could serve as a nationwide model for helping vulnerable populations, particularly immigrants, achieve economic stability. Many of these communities were among the hardest hit by the recent recession.”Low-income individuals, especially immigrant women, often have limited access to financial opportunities and few places to turn for help,” said Belinda Reyes, an associate professor of Latina/Latino Studies at SF State, CCI director and lead author of the studies. “The Lending Circle program is bringing people who had no credit or very a damaged credit, into the financial mainstream.”In a lending circle, participants join a group of at least four individuals in which each contributes an equal amount and receives the total sum in rotation. For example, someone participating in a circle with seven other people could contribute $100 a month for 8 months in exchange for an $800 loan.”This is something that immigrant communities in particular have used for generations,” Reyes said. “In the past it has been very informal, but a good way of getting cash.”MAF is the first to formalize these types of peer loans by reporting payments to credit bureaus, allowing lending circle participants to build up credit. To build good spending habits, MAF combined the circles with financial education classes to help participants learn how to manage their expenses and adopt behaviors that can help their credit score. Researchers found that those who participated in a lending circle in 2011 and 2012 saw their credit score increase by an average of 168 points. The impact was even more dramatic for those with no credit history: 72 percent of participants with no credit score at the beginning of their lending circle had a score of 620 or above at the end of their first lending circle.”The program is outstanding for people without credit history,” Reyes said. …

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Escalating cost of forest conservation

Apr. 16, 2013 — In the face of unprecedented deforestation and biodiversity loss, policy makers are increasingly using financial incentives to encourage conservation.

However, a research team led by the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed that in the long run, conservation incentives may struggle to compete with future agricultural yields.

Their findings were first published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 15 April 2013.

Financial incentives for conservation

Incentives are being levereged in dozens of tropical developing countries to conserve forests, to protect biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions from deforestation. This incentive-based approach is comparatively inexpensive, as low agricultural yields and widespread poverty often mean that relatively small incentives can motivate many landholders to protect their land for conservation.

As a result, this approach has become a leading climate change mitigation strategy adopted by the United Nations as policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

Costs of conservation in the long run

In a bid to assess the future viability of these types of conservation programmes, the team, comprising researchers from NUS, ETH Zurich and University of Cambridge, developed a framework and model that looked at the strategy’s effectiveness in the context of intensified farming practices.

The researchers modeled conservation payments necessary to protect forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has some of the largest remaining forests in the world. They found that a new agricultural intensification and conservation programme could double or triple cassava and maize yields by introducing disease-resistant plant varieties, increasing fertilizer use and improving farming practices.

Increased farm yields will bring dramatic benefits to DRC farmers, and could increase land area spared for conservation. Similar agricultural intensification policies are being promoted across the tropics.

However, the researchers highlight how those higher yields and incomes will also increase financial incentives for farmers to clear more forest for agriculture. As a result, financial incentives to encourage farmers to protect forests and not expand agriculture would need to escalate as well. They expect farmers who were once willing to protect forests for a comparative pittance could, in a matter of years, demand more for their conservation actions. Small-scale farmers might also be displaced by larger commercial ventures as farming becomes more lucrative, and as profits increase with growing global demand for agricultural products.

After taking these factors into account, the researchers found that while the current costs of forest conservation in many countries are very low, future changes in agricultural practices could radically increase the cost of conservation.

Escalating cost is top concern

The NUS-led study illustrated that these contemporary policies tend to focus on short-term conservation and on improving the livelihoods of poor communities around forested areas. However, they risk overlooking impacts of on long-term conservation.

The researchers warn that conservation expenditure will have to dramatically increase to compete with future agriculture.

Said Jacob Phelps, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science and first author of the study, “Our research suggests that as agriculture becomes more intensive, the small payments successful at incentivising forest conservation today could increase to well beyond what is considered economically efficient, or even feasible. We anticipate that similar patterns are likely across the tropics, including in places like Indonesia.”

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