Financial Deserts

Financial Deserts:
Southeast Los Angeles


As part of our efforts to uplift underserved communities, our Master Your CardOportunidad partners identified a group of ten areas in Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) that were experiencing the drain on resources and tax on productivity, typical of life in financial deserts. In addition to community members suffering the hardship of being excluded from the modern digital economy, these areas have been passed over for economic investment and development that could serve as an engine for upward mobility. Local nonprofits, governmental agencies, and private companies in the region came together through the California Community Foundation for a kickoff event that introduced a vision for strengthening the region as a whole. This vision included collaboration on solutions to green the financial deserts through payment technology and education. Master Your CardOportunidad was a partner from the start, sharing results from the Morgan State University study, illuminating the impact financial deserts have on those who live within them, as well as primary data about electronic payment trends within these and other underserved communities. This Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative had a mission to create a cohesive infrastructure in the region that supported the progress of community residents, fostering greater financial inclusion, economic opportunity and wider access to the services people need to build healthy lives.

SELA Collaborative Member Communities 

SELA Collaborative members worked together to identify a set of characteristics communities share across the municipal boundaries of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Florence-Firestone, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood, Southgate, Vernon and Walnut Park:

Lack of Infrastructure: These communities have limited capacity to serve residents, a limited number of organizations directly serving the area, and a lack of strong local representation. Other characteristics include a lack of accountability by elected officials, a lack of advocacy efforts, and a large non-citizen population.

Lack of Resources: Based on census and demographic data, SELA Collaborative members found that predominantly low-income communities have experienced a pattern of neglect, and lack typical services for children ages 0-5.

Similar Origins: Demographics, workforce issues; historical affiliations; common socio-economic history (shifts/changes in industrial sector); housing density; and governance structures.

Geography: South of the 5 Freeway, east of 110 Freeway, north of 91 Freeway, and west of the 60 Freeway and communities that neighbor at least one other city within the boundary.

Community Engagement

  • Master Your Card: Oportunidad contributed to the SELA Collaborative’s strategic plan for their work in the region, proposing a study that measures the economic “cost of cash” for the region; providing regional financial data through the Mastercard Retail Location Insights (MRLI) portal that illuminates economic activity and opportunity in neighborhoods; and supplying ongoing financial literacy content in collaboration with the Pat Brown Institute.

  • Master Your Card: Oportunidad was a partner in the effort to create a reinvestment fund and a community prepaid card that would allow unbanked SELA residents to begin to enter the financial mainstream, minimizing their reliance on expensive alternative financial services such as payday lenders and check cashing centers—expensive services that are highly concentrated within SELA.

  • Master Your Card: Oportunidad introduced an online financial education platform to at least 68 lower-income schools, under the Master Your Card/EVERFI School Program. The platform educated 4,000+ students. The initial launch was held at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood.

Community Partners

Events & Resources

  • Master Your Card Launches Innovative Web-based… READ MORE