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Research Questions

  1. Is the rate of the unbanked (those without an account at a financial institution) worsening over time?
  2. What is the ethnic, racial, and/or socioeconomic disparity of the unbanked?

The fraction of American households that have no savings or checking bank accounts (i.e., are "unbanked") has long been a concern for policymakers. In the current economic environment, new and timely data are critical to understanding the development of this issue. Estimates from a nationally representative sample of individuals, RAND's American Life Panel, suggest that in 2011: 15.5 percent of the population is unbanked; socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals are considerably more likely to be unbanked; unbanked households cite both financial barriers and personal preference as reasons for not having a bank account.

Key Findings

New Data Collected by the RAND Corporation Show a Higher Prevalence of Unbanked Individuals in 2011 than the Rates Reported in Previous Studies

The Percentage of Unbanked Americans Varies With Socioeconmic Status and Ethnicity

New Data Collected by the RAND Corporation Show a Higher Prevalence of Unbanked Individuals in 2011 than the Rates Reported in Previous Studies

  • Overall, 15.5 percent of the respondents to RAND's American Life Panel (ALP) reported having no bank account.
  • The 2011 ALP also shows more than 16 percent of respondents are not confident in their ability to access the financial products and services that they need.

The Percentage of Unbanked Americans Varies With Socioeconmic Status and Ethnicity

  • The data show that 36 percent of respondents with less that $30,000 in income were unbanked, versus 7 percent of those above this threshold.
  • A much higher proportion of blacks (38 percent) and Hispanics (31 percent) reported having no bank account than did whites (8 percent).

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Labor and Population.

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