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Local MacArthur genius brings immigrants out of the financial shadows

Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation announced its annual list of fellowship awards, often known as the “genius” awards, and one of this year’s winners is San Francisco-based José Quiñonez.

He’s the founder of the Mission Asset Fund, a non-profit organization focused on giving immigrants and low income communities a chance to be visible in the financial market. He says at least 64 million Americans don’t have credit scores, and seventeen million don’t have access to bank accounts, which are necessary to buy a car, rent a home, or sometimes even find a job.

So Quiñonez went back to what immigrant communities do have--the social monetary systems from back home--and applied them here. How does it all work?

Quiñonez: Here’s a moment of saying we see you, we recognize you, and here’s a credit score.

Click the audio player above to listen to the complete interview.


Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.