How to Achieve the American Dream on an Immigrant's Income

Collection of case studies shedding light on how informal savings circles work in the United States

While there are many publications on Rotating Credit and Savings Associations (ROSCAs) in developing countries there is little written about ROSCAs in developed countries. This publication shares important lessons learned by the authors as they profiled informal savings circles in Nepali, Cambodian, Bangladeshi, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Kenyan, Mexican, Caribbean and Central American immigrant enclaves.

Immigrants, adapting traditions brought from their home countries to their new reality in the United States, had addressed every methodological wrinkle microfinance and savings group gurus had labored over for decades. They accomplished all this at no cost and with no advice from outsiders. Village values of family, hard work, putting up with hardship, entrepreneurship, mutual accountability, and support work as well in villages as in first world cities. Immigrants who arrive with little more than these values, their family, and community connections, often prosper within a generation. What do these findings imply for how to promote grassroot economic development in non-immigrant communities? Would it not be better to build on existing informal savings circles than train new ones? 

About this Publication

By Jeffrey Ashe , Kim Wilson