Financial Deserts

Financial Deserts:
Southeast Los Angeles


Why We’re Here

As part of our efforts to uplift underserved communities, our Master Your Card: Oportunidad partners identified a group of ten cities 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 cities 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 Card: Oportunidad has been a partner from the start, sharing results from our 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 has a mission to create a cohesive infrastructure in the region that supports 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 Cities 

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 cities 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 cities 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 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 is 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 has introduced an online financial education platform to at least 68 lower-income schools. The platform has already educated at least 4,098 students with schools continuing to sign on to the program. The initial launch was held at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood, California. This curriculum is CFPB approved and meets the national standards for financial education.

Community Partners

Events & Resources

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