Incarcerated women tend to be poor, with no retirement savings and little financial literacy, according to new research from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation.
The investor education arm of the U.S. self-regulatory organization published a report based on surveys of 515 incarcerated men and women in Arkansas. The study found that more than half (54%) of female prisoners live below the poverty line, compared with 16% of non-incarcerated women and 26% of male prisoners.
It also found that just 9% of female prisoners have some retirement savings, versus 42% of non-incarcerated women.
“Incarcerated women have not accumulated important assets in wealth building, like owning a home,” it said, noting that just 18% of prisoners own homes compared to nearly 63% of women in the general population.
Moreover, imprisoned women are the most frequent users of high-cost borrowing methods, such as cheque-cashing services, pawn shops and rent-to-own stores.
For instance, more 75% of male and female prisoners use cheque-cashing services, compared to less than 10% of people generally.
The study also found that female inmates scored the worst on a basic, three-question financial literacy quiz, averaging just 0.69 correct answers, versus 1.14 for male prisoners.
“This research highlights the challenges that women, in particular, face as they re-enter society after time in prison—and it couldn’t be more timely as coronavirus infection rates lead jurisdictions to release more inmates,” said Gerri Walsh, president of the FINRA Foundation and FINRA’s senior vice president for investor education.