Charlie Bernstein – EDIT Solution journalism 2022: Crowdsourcing as a pathway to Domestic Violence reduction in New Orleans

Domestic violence occurs behind closed doors, since in the city of New Orleans, 36% of women and 35% of men have experienced a form of intimate partner violence (NISVS). In the Crescent City, 59.2% of the population is Black or African American alone. On a larger scale, 40% of women who belong to racial and ethnic minorities are affected by intimate partner violence, in comparison to the all-women percentage of 31.2% (CDC).

According to the Violence Policy Center, Louisiana ranked fifth in the United States for women killed by men in 2019.  Domestic violence, like any other individual action, does not occur in a vacuum. Economic instability, gender inequality, and lack of community engagement are factors that contribute to increasing rates of domestic violence. A study conducted by the IMF showed that “an increase in violence against women by 1 percentage point is associated with a 9 percent lower level of economic activity” (Ouedraogo and Stenzel). Negative externalities such as lost wages lost productivity, and loss of potential are considered when analyzing the effects of domestic violence.

In fact, in Orleans parish, 57% of families live below the ALICE threshold. The ALICE threshold is a measure that estimates the minimal cost of five basic household necessities: housing, childcare, food, transportation, and health care. African American families experience a 30% rate of poverty compared to their white counterpart’s 8%. Low wages, reduced work hours, increasing costs, and natural disasters. In Louisiana, in 2018, there was a record report of unemployment and three other trends: an increase in low-wage jobs, minimal wage increases, and impromptu fluctuations in job hours and benefits (UWLA). “If all households earned enough to meet their basic needs, not only would each family’s hardship be eased, but the Louisiana economy would also benefit substantially.” (UWLA). Food and housing insecurity have been linked to sexual violence and intimate partner violence, while they are also indicators of economic instability (Breiding).  17% of households faced food insecurity in 2020 in the city of New Orleans (PBS). From data taken from the 2003 California Women’s Health Survey, women who experienced intimate partner violence in the last year had four times the odds of reporting housing instability (Pavao). Low income also increases the duration of domestic abuse since economic insecurity reduces the likelihood of victims leaving their violent relationships or households (Styliano). There are psychological implications within the relationship between domestic abuse and housing and food insecurity since economic insecurity raises levels of stress and increases the likelihood of conflict in a relationship (Capaldi).  Domestic violence and intimate partner violence will have prolonged effects on victims; 47.6% of women who have suffered from domestic violence experience depression, and 17.9% have attempted suicide (Liu). Intimate partner violence increases depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation (Devries). Countries with higher GDP per capita experience fewer reports of domestic violence and intimate partner violence if country-level education is excluded (Kovaks). One must also account for other social and cultural effects that real GDP per capita has, especially education. Individual-level wealth differences demonstrated a difference in intimate partner violence since wealthier women are more protected (Kovaks). The United States’ inflation rate by June was 9.1%, the largest increment in 40 years (FED). Wages, on the other hand, have increased by 4.7% (FED). With the rising cost of living and slower-climbing wages, socio-economic disparities are expected to increase as well. Low-income families pay the steepest prices of inflation (Horsley). With economic instability, higher levels of stress and intrapersonal conflict arise (Joyce). Material hardship predicts higher levels of aggression, and an increase in economic stability leads to positive measures of relationship quality (Joyce), which could potentially reduce the risk of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse. 

Beyond the acts of abuse, psychological trauma, and overall economic effects of domestic abuse, the New Orleans legal system is both responsible and a potential solution to the issue. Victims who do report their case, which are 36% of female victims and 16% of male victims (Bureau of Justice Statistics), will have to follow through a series of complex legal processes. The first step includes requesting help from a New Orleans Police Officer, in which the officer must arrest the suspect and help the victim obtain medical treatment (La. Rev. Stat. Ann 46:2140). In order to file a protective order, they must create a petition in court requesting that a judge grant the victim the order. (La. Rev. Stat. § § 46:2132, 46:2151). If the order is granted, a hearing will be scheduled at the earliest possible date-keeping in mind the average wait time for a hearing to be held in New Orleans is eleven months (SSA).  To receive a final protective order, the court must order a domestic abuse evaluation. If the order is granted, it will be valid for 18 months unless it is extended through another hearing. (La. Rev. Stat. § 46:2136). The process must be accompanied by an attorney, in which the price average ranges around 250$ USD and 450$ USD in New Orleans, keeping in mind the city’s minimum hour wage is at 15$ USD an hour (Department of Labor). Besides the sticker price, there are indirect costs such as transportation, divorce lawyers, childcare during the court process, and others. 

Beyond financial instability-induced stress and its societal effects, scarcity has injured our communities. While working tirelessly to obtain a paycheck and then paying rent and utilities, people interact with scarcity day to day. The system, built upon disparities and abuse, has perpetuated the idea that we will never be enough by simply being. 

Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, explored the philosophy of free markets and how economies thrive in competition and a capitalist model. Said models work under a scarcity framework. A company that has shifted away from the scarcity model within the current economic system is Hyperloop, a transportation licensing company that was built through crowdsourcing. Although the project is under construction, it has demonstrated that there is an opportunity for business models to move towards an abundance framework. In 1845, Brunel, a British engineer, ideated a tube that would allow trains to go at 70 miles per hour. At the time, the idea was infeasible due to a lack of materials and technology. In 2013, Elon Musk brought the idea to the public’s eyes when he published the design outline for Hyperloop. The project faced multiple economic obstacles, yet now the company is going public and continues to be funded by different venture capitals. Since then, through open-source design, the project has been underway to become physical. Hyperloop’s business model is based on collaboration rather than competition, where workers do not earn an hour-based wage but rather on a scale of impact. Workers at Hyperloop also work at NASA simultaneously, so they continue to acquire skills at their full-time jobs while applying their knowledge to specific tasks at Hyperloop. The model run by Hyperloop allows for ideas to continue growing while not being fully funded yet. Therefore, there is a monetary limitation to the final product, yet the creation process is based upon collaboration. There is an ironic tone to Hyperloop since it was initiated by Musk, whose net worth is 175.7 billion USD. Still, the concept of an open-source design project based on crowdsourcing is challenging the economic ideas of scarcity in the engineering world. Hyperloop provides space for engineers to collaborate in a creative yet challenging environment without the necessity of leaving a full-time job behind. Crowdsourcing has limitations since there is no confidentiality, intellectual property rights, or crowd management, and there is potential for excluding community voices (Tucker). To prevent exclusion, crowdsourcing companies must explicitly state selection criteria and ensure adequate representation of marginalized groups. 

Crowdsourcing looks at diminishing a scarcity mindset in the process of creating a project with financial constraints, yet individual finances must be looked at through a different lens. Financial literacy empowers individuals to look at finances in a structured manner that leads to a reduction in stress and anxiety caused by finances (Rose).  While financial literacy will work under the scarcity model, it can help families better plan their spending and investments in a way that increases savings and effective financial decisions. The effects of financial literacy have been measured at the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels. Studies conducted on more than 3.7 million intimate partner violence incidents from 1994 to 2016 have shown that an improvement in women’s financial literacy can reduce rates of domestic violence between 3% and 11%  (Moncayo). A domestic violence victim is less likely to gain economic self-sufficiency and financial resources (Postmus). With economic empowerment, the solutions to domestic violence are more at reach since the biggest predictors of whether a woman stays, leaves, or returns to an abusive relationship are economic factors (Postmus). Existing programs such as Hope & Power for Your Personal Finances, Personal Economic Planning, ROW’s Economic Action Program (REAP), and Moving Ahead Through Financial Management are implementations of financial literacy programs in an attempt to reduce domestic violence and the amount of time victims maintain relationships with their perpetrators. 

Financial literacy courses have limitations, such as language barriers for Spanish, French, and non-English speakers. Immigrant and undocumented women are less likely to report abuse out of fear of being deported, which limits the data on domestic violence and creates barriers in outreach programs (Homeland Security). Crowdsourcing could be implemented to overcome these barriers. Crowdsourcing has been utilized to improve multilingual health and well-being platforms. Miller et al. created a pilot for crowdsourcing in healthcare for immigrant communities in Japan. Their implementation was based on four principles:  1) co-creation – involving end users in design decisions; 2) crowdsourcing – collecting information on users’ experiences and recommendations using health services; 3) data utilization – improving the site based on data analysis; and 4) sustainability – ensuring continuity after the start-up period (Miller). Applying these principles to the creation of a financial literacy program would make the program more accessible to Latinx, Asian, and other communities. 

The New Orleans Pelicans host a financial literacy class in the Smoothie King Center.

New Orleans has around 130 festivals each year. Mardi Gras, celebrated on the 12th Tuesday after Christmas, alone attracts at least 1 million visitors (Afar). The first Mardi Gras in New Orleans occurred in 1837 and has been celebrated since (History). With a rich history of cultural interaction, as well as racial and social oppression, New Orleans is unique and complex. The demographics of Crescent City are a 33.4% white population, 59.2% black population, and 5.5% Latino population (Census). There is cultural interplay within a city that was also historically occupied by the Chitimacha tribe, then by Spanish and French colonizers. Jazz was born here and continues to be one of the core cultural components of this city, with jazz bars open every day of the week. The street names in the French Quarter are both Spanish and French; the food heritage in the city is a combination of Cajun, Creole, and soul. The city was built on oppressive structures, yet the communities found time and space for collaboration and flourishing. New Orleans is the ideal stage for joint effort: citizens are already dedicating their time each year to decorate, participate voluntarily in dressing up, and play a part in Mardi Gras. Krewes and their floats drive down the streets with lights and colorful costumes. Over 25 million pounds of beads are thrown, and 1 million visitors participate in the parades (Afar). 

A potential solution for domestic violence rates increasing in New Orleans is to increase financial literacy through school interventions. An increase in financial literacy is proven to represent an increase in individual savings. Scarcity, on the other hand, can come from uninformed spending habits and a lack of financial agency. The implementation of financial literacy programs in schools would require a mandate since the New Orleans school system is charter and private. In charter and private schools, each institution designs its curriculum unless it is mandated by the local government. A mandatory inclusion would require institutional change, which could benefit New Orleans in the long run. Once the implementation of financial literacy as a curriculum requirement in New Orleans schools is in place, crowdsourcing can ensure that these programs are accessible and effective. Since it is a cross-disciplinary intervention, entrepreneurs, teachers, psychologists, and artists can participate in increasing the levels of financial literacy in the city. Local businesses can intervene and provide students with real-life examples, as well as encourage more community interactions. Crowdsourcing generates space for those who cannot be involved in community engagement year-round to participate in a change-making program without having to commit year-round and provide intellectual insights for a determined period of time. Collaboration, as a pathway to abundance, can allow for all bright minds to intertwine and create a financial literacy program that helps children and adolescents feel more economically empowered. Simultaneously, crowdsourcing provides underrepresented communities the space to be directly involved in the creation of the program to ensure there are no barriers and that the program does not perpetuate the damage to existing socioeconomic structures. The incorporation of crowdsourcing to create a financial literacy program is a stepping stone towards abundance in Crescent City and could represent long-lasting changes behind the closed doors of families who have experienced abuse.  



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