Princeton University May 9+10, 2018

Why Dignity?

What is dignity and what is its relationship to credit and debt? This panel explores how people experience dignity and seek to affirm it when making decisions about debt. The panel will begin with the question of how the delivery of debt affects individuals’ understandings of themselves as autonomous, self-directed, and respected (like everyone else). The panelists will place these meanings of debt and dignity into natural and laboratory contexts where debt is experienced as dignity-enhancing or degrading.

The Dignity Roundtable

  • Kathryn Edin (Princeton University), Dignity: What the Earned Income Tax Credit Teaches Us
  • Julia Elyachar (Princeton University), A Social History of Debt
  • Jonathan Morduch (New York University and Financial Access Initiative), Why Debt: Rethinking the Microfinance Revolution
  • Isabelle Guérin (Université Paris Diderot), Debt as Degrading or Emancipatory
  • Eldar Shafir (Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy, Princeton University), Affirming Experiences in Debt Collection

Dignity, Inequality, and the Humanizing Mission: The Mission of the University, the Possibilities for Social & Computational Science

  • Christopher L. Eisgruber (President, Princeton University)
  • Stephen Kotkin (Director, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies [PIIRS])
  • Mitchell Duneier (Chair, Sociology, Princeton University)

Getting Respect

The book Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel (2016) asked how the search for respect shaped how individuals navigated social interactions where they were likely to be disrespected (or believed that they would be). What if a similar question were asked about respect in the context of financial services? And what if a book were written based on experiences in the US, India, Brazil, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, and elsewhere? What might we learn about the price people are willing to pay to evade situations of acute disrespect and how might financial services be structured to relieve them of those costs while diverting those resources to more productive endeavors? What are different models for structuring debt that attend to gender differences in how respect is activated and mobilized? And how might we navigate a path between experiments and audits, on the one hand, and in-depth interviews and longer-term observations, on the other?

Ethnographic Field Studies on the Social Meanings of Household Finances, Dignity, & Debt

  • Graziella Moraes Silva (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies/IHEID), The Comparative Framework used for Getting Respect in the US, Brazil, and Israel
  • Smita Premchander (Sampark and Indian Institute of Management), India
  • Federico Neiburg (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and Eugênia Motta (Instituto de Economia Real and the Center for Research on Culture and Economy (NuCEC), BrazilDeborah James (London School of Economics and Political Science), South Africa
  • Ariel Wilkis and Martín Hornes (National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), Argentina
  • Sibel Kusimba and Chap Kusimba (American University), Kenya
  • Horacio Ortiz (IRISSO, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and East China Normal University), China
  • Alya Guseva (Boston University) and Akos Rona-Tas (University of California, San Diego), Russia, Vietnam, Hungary, Poland, China, and other post-Communist countries

Audit Studies of Access, Transparency, and Respect

  • Edoardo Totolo and Francis Gwer (Financial Sector Deepening-Kenya)
  • Rourke O’Brien (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

What's Fair: Demonstrating the Possible

This panel asks how qualitative field researchers can partner with computational social scientists to explore how consumers think about finance and fairness. What is experienced as fair and respectful when accessing financial services? What are dignity-enhancing versus degrading experiences for consumers when their delin- quent debts are collected? And how do debt collectors and financial service providers think about fairness and respect when interacting with a variety of debtors? The sessions will highlight a new pilot study that is being launched this summer in Kenya, Brazil, and the US, funded by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Predicting A Prompt Response Using Complaints Text: Using Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Data

  • Brandon Stewart (Princeton University)

From Health Journals to Consumer Complaints: A Framework for the Demonstration Project

  • Parijat Chakrabarti, Isabel Jijon, and Gabriela Oseguera Serra (Princeton University)

Short Term Credits, Long Term Debts: The Personal and the Collective in Financial Lives

  • Federico Neiburg (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), Eugênia Motta (Instituto de Economia Real and the Center for Research on Culture and Economy (NuCEC), Paulo Augusto Franco de Alcântara (Instituto de Economia Real), and Viviane Fernandes, (Center for Research on Culture and Economy (NuCEC)

It’s Not Fair: The Backlash Against Globalization & Financial Deepening

  • Bart Bonikowski (Weatherhead Research Cluster on Global Populism, Harvard University), Discussant: Nina Bandelj (University of California, Irvine)

The Financial Diaries Challenge

The Fragile Families Challenge asked: “What would happen if hundreds of social scientists and data scientists worked together on a scientific challenge to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in the United States?” The Challenge relied on 15 years of data collected by the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Although the data had already been used in hundreds of published studies, the Challenge offered an open call to any computational social scientists (no matter their location) to use the existing data to identify unmeasured but important factors for children who were “beating the odds.” It also aimed to identify intervention prior- ities. Currently, the Challenge has moved to deep qualitative dives into the data with follow-up interviewing to sharpen analytic understandings and intervention outcomes. What if a similar challenge could be made to researchers willing to analyze the data collected around the globe from the Financial Diaries studies?

Fragile Finances: Lessons from the Fragile Families Challenge

  • Matthew Salganik (Princeton University)Alex Kindel (Princeton University)
  • The Financial Diaries: Looking for Dignity, Fairness, & Respect

The Financial Diaries: Looking for Dignity, Fairness and Respect

  • Jonathan Morduch (New York University and Financial Access Initiative) Julie Zollman (BFA)
  • Barbara Kiviat (Harvard)
  • Kristin Seefeldt (University of Michigan)

Catalyzing Action: The Social Sciences, Technology, & Innovation

  • Peter Levin (Intel)

The Design Challenge: Moving Fast, Thinking Slow

What would happen if a team of undergraduate, graduate, and post- doctoral fellows as well as community members and industry innovators teamed up to address debt collection and other financial services? How might these partnerships facilitate fast action in an area where research on dignity, respect, and financial services is only just getting underway? What has been the experience of inno- vators trying to create designs to address financial service challenges around the globe? And how are these innovative designs experienced differently by demographic group (gender, age, race/tribe)? The discussion will conclude with a proposal to issue a Tiger Challenge (, whereby under- graduate students enroll in a two year challenge to address dignity and debt. The discussion will also include the need for a working group to ask how the Tiger Challenge model can be adopted outside of Princeton in other universities, community colleges, and communities of Fintech practice to learn how these different communities think about and apply designs for dignity and inclusion. These design challenges are important for the innovations they produce, but more importantly, they can provide an opportunity for popular participation. Embedding organizational researchers in different types of teams will allow us to capture the ideas and the skepticism that reflect what differently positioned people value. If we could capture design ideas extolled by different groups of designers (from elite universities to community colleges to entrepreneurial teams scattered across the globe) as well as those ideas that were rejected or not expressed, we can better understand how the human values implicated in financial services are affected by social class and by life experiences.

The Challenges of Design and the Design Challenge

  • Tim Weiss (Stanford University)
  • Christopher Yenkey (University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business)
  • Linda Tvrdy (Daisy Debt and Columbia University)
  • Ken Anderson (Intel and The Keller Center, Princeton University)
  • Rafe Steinhauer (The Keller Center, Princeton University)

Changing Analytics

Measuring Dignity, Respect, & Economic Morality in Financial Access

  • Leora Klapper (Development Research Group, World Bank)
  • Karen Rowlingson (Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM), University of Birmingham)
  • Stephen Vaisey (Measuring Morality Project, Duke University)
  • Neli Esipova (Director at Gallup)
  • Discussants: Adam Goldstein (Princeton University) and Anmol Chaddha (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)

Changing Practice

The Practitioners’ Plenary: Research, Development, and Dissemination Opportunities in Partnership

  • Amrik Heyer (Financial Sector Deepening-Kenya)Marla Blow (FS Card)
  • José Quiñonez (Mission Asset Fund)
  • Ezra Garrett (Oportun)
  • Ida Rademacher (Aspen Institute)Martin Johnson (Isles)

Visualizing Debt

  • Carolyn Rouse (Chair, Anthropology, Princeton University)
  • Jeffrey Himpele (VizE Lab for Ethnographic Data Visualization, Princeton University)

Taking Stock: Next Steps

  • Frederick F. Wherry (Princeton University) and Thomas Asher (Social Science Research Council)