What to Take Away from the New FDIC Data on Banking and Credit Access

On October 23, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released the results of the 2017 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households. The survey found that 6.5 percent of U.S. households are unbanked, which is the lowest rate recorded since the FDIC launched the survey in 2009. The rate of underbanked households—those with bank accounts that still use alternative financial services such as money orders, check cashers or payday loans—has also dropped to 18.7 percent, from 19.9 percent in 2015. 

In addition to data on unbanked and underbanked households, the FDIC survey contains a wealth of data on other measures of household finance at the national, state and metro area levels. There is also information on how households access their bank accounts (bank branches, online banking, mobile banking, etc.), why unbanked households don’t have accounts and the use of prepaid cards and alternative financial services. The survey is the source for the Prosperity Now Scorecard’s measures of savings account ownership, emergency savings and income volatility. For all these measures, you can see how the data differs for different demographic groups, including income, age and race.

In the 2017 survey, the FDIC expanded the data it collected on the use of credit. It asked households whether, in the past 12 months, they had mainstream credit products: credit cards, store credit cards, bank personal loans or lines of credit, auto loans, student loans, or mortgage or home equity loans. The results showed that one in five (19.7 percent) of households hadn’t used mainstream credit products in the last 12 months, which may indicate that those households don’t have a credit score.

This new data on credit use is exciting because we can examine differences in outcomes for different populations in ways that we can’t with data from the credit bureaus, which are the sources for the majority of the credit data in the Scorecard. We now see that the rate of households with no mainstream credit varies considerably across different demographic groups, and particularly by race. As the chart below indicates, roughly one in seven White and Asian households and one in three Black and Latino households don’t use mainstream credit.

The FDIC has created tools to help you explore the full data set, including a custom chart and table creators. For example, if you are interested in savings account ownership in California, you can create a chart that shows the rates for different income groups.

All of the data from the 2017 Unbanked and Underbanked Survey can be found at economicinclusion.gov. We encourage you to visit the site and look through all the data and resources!

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