How Cashless Economy Hits the Poor

ver the last decade, the number of individuals living in New York City homeless shelters surged as high as 50% at times. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the nation’s homeless population, which is also hit harder by climate change-driven events than any other segment of the population. In cities where rent prices have skyrocketed in recent years, the homeless population will sadly continue to grow while the effects of climate change worsen. Meanwhile, Americans now carry less cash in their pockets, preventing the homeless from receiving adequate funds through cash transfers. Compounded by climate change, COVID-19, and soaring rent, the increasingly cashless American economy has left homeless individuals virtually unsupported. In response, the businesses profiting from these cashless transactions must do more to support the homeless individuals they harm.

A 2017 survey conducted by US Bank revealed that one in two Americans hold zero cash on them half of the time they leave their homes. Instead, U.S. consumers carry debit, credit, and gift cards and use digital money wiring apps such as Venmo and Zelle. A 2019 Nilson report found that ​​82.2% of American adults have a debit card, and 71.67% of American adults have a credit card. 

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

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