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The Inclusive Economy

New Data Reveals High Unbanked, Underbanked Rates in Localities across America

By Kasey Wiedrich on 12/03/2015 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: News, Data and Research

According to the latest estimates published in CFED’s Assets & Opportunity Local Data Center, one in every nine households (11%) in American cities with 200,000 or more residents are unbanked, meaning that they have neither a checking account nor a savings account. This figure is significantly higher than the national average of 7.7% for all households—roughly one in every 14 households. Without a bank account to store and accrue earnings, unbanked households lack even the most basic tools through which to build a safety net for emergencies, and are effectively shut out of the economic mainstream. Additionally, one in every five (20%) households in major cities is underbanked, meaning that while they have access to a bank account, these households still use alternative financial services, like money orders or high-cost short-term loans, to manage their finances. Family Assets Count, a partnership between CFED and Citi Community Development, is putting national data in the hands of local decision-makers to advance solutions to this issue.

Through the Family Assets Count project, CFED used the latest biennial Survey of Unbanked Households from the FDIC to develop new estimates of household financial access for cities and counties across the country, updating data previously released in 2014. These estimates provide a glimpse into the factors that influence a household’s banked status, and illustrate the pervasiveness of—and need for comprehensive solutions to—the nation’s financial access crisis.

Of major U.S. cities, Newark, NJ, has the highest unbanked rate, with 23.3% of its households identified as unbanked. Detroit has the second-highest rate with 19.9% unbanked. These positions are reversed for underbanked rates: at 28.5%, Detroit has the highest underbanked rate of all American cities with a population greater than 200,000 people, while Newark has the second-highest rate, at 26.9%. Newark and Detroit also had the highest unbanked and underbanked rates, respectively, among major cities in 2011.

These findings point to the need for solutions that address the financial vulnerabilities facing households across the country, especially households of color, those with low incomes and those without postsecondary degrees.

To find out about how families are faring on these measures in your city, visit the Assets & Opportunity Local Data Center. For more on how some groups are using this data, visit FamilyAssetsCount.org.

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