2005 volume 37(9) pages 1565 – 1587

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Collom E, 2005, "Community currency in the United States: the social environments in which it emerges and survives" Environment and Planning A 37(9) 1565 – 1587

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Community currency in the United States: the social environments in which it emerges and survives

Ed Collom

Received 12 June 2004; in revised form 13 October 2004

Abstract. Community currency originated as a means to empower the economically marginalized. This paper studies the US population of community currency systems using locally printed money. Eighty-two systems are identified that have been attempted in the United States since 1991. Internet searches and contact with system coordinators indicate that only 20.7% of all systems are active. Regions in which they occur are described; more than one quarter are in Pacific states. City-level Census 2000 data are employed in analyses of environmental conduciveness to determine in which types of social environments local currencies emerge and survive within. Social movement theory is engaged to identify general, population-based resources for local movements. Economic marginality and labor-market-independence hypotheses are also formulated and tested. The major findings indicate that cities with local currencies are characterized by populations with lower household incomes, higher poverty rates, higher unemployment rates, and larger self-employment sectors. Evidence is also presented indicating that community currencies tend to survive in places with younger populations, higher educational attainment, fewer married people, and less residential stability. Implications concerning the future of the community currency movement and its ability to empower the marginalized are drawn.

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