Number of Illinois Households with a Bank Account Increases, Barely

Government Survey Shows Fewer Unbanked People in Chicago; Extreme Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist


PRESS CONTACTS: Brent Adams  ( or Jenna Severson (


CHICAGO, IL – The number of unbanked and underbanked households in the U.S. is slowly decreasing, according to the results of the latest national survey released yesterday by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).  Extreme disparities among racial and ethnic groups persist, however.  According to the FDIC, “unbanked and underbanked rates were higher among lower-income households, less-educated households, younger households, black and Hispanic households, households headed by working-age individuals with a disability, and households with incomes that tend to vary from month to month.”

Consistent with the national trend, the number of unbanked households in Chicago and Illinois declined in 2017 as compared to 2015. In Illinois, the number of unbanked households decreased slightly from 7.1 percent in 2015 to 7.0 percent in 2017. In Chicago, the number of unbanked households decreased more, from 8.1 percent in 2015 to 6.9 percent in 2017.

Differing somewhat from the national trend, the number of underbanked households, which are households that have a bank account but obtain financial products or services from payday lenders, currency exchanges, or other alternative financial services providers, increased in Illinois from 14.3 percent to 15.3 percent. In Chicago, the number of underbanked households decreased slightly from 14.3 percent to 13.9 percent.

Racial disparities in unbanked rates improved somewhat but were still stark.  In Illinois, the number of unbanked White households increased from 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent, while the number of unbanked Black households decreased from 28.3 percent to 23.1 percent.  In Chicago, the number of unbanked White households increased from 1.1 percent to 1.4 percent, while the number of unbanked Black households decreased from 28.9 percent to 24.5 percent.

“The decrease in unbanked households is good news, but there are still hundreds of thousands of households in Illinois without bank accounts, and practically no White households are unbanked compared to nearly one quarter of Black households,” said Brent Adams, Senior Vice President of Policy and Communication of Woodstock Institute.  “This disparity is a pillar of the structural racism that exists in our financial system – a system that makes it harder for people of color to achieve and maintain financial security.”

Laws such as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) seek to address the disparities that exist in the financial system by requiring banks to adequately serve low- and moderate-income people and communities.  One of the nation’s banking regulators, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), is taking aim at the CRA. The OCC, led by Trump appointee Joseph Otting, former President and CEO of OneWest Bank, a mortgage company best known for foreclosing on tens of thousands of homeowners, published in August an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) with the intent to “modernize” the CRA. Civil rights and consumer advocates worry that the OCC’s proposed changes to the CRA will dilute the law’s effectiveness.

“The CRA helps us hold banks accountable for meeting their legal obligation to serve the financial and credit needs of the entire community,” said Dory Rand, President of Woodstock Institute.  “We are mobilizing folks to tell the OCC and other bank regulators not to water down the CRA. We are also asking banks to offer products that can bring unbanked people into the financial mainstream, such as basic accounts without overdraft that meet national BankOn standards.”

Recognizing how the unbanked pay more for day-to-day financial transactions, such as check cashing, Woodstock spearheaded research and led a coalition that helped pass the Check Cashing Fairness Act this year. That law, which Governor Rauner signed on August 3, 2018, requires the State to consider the impact on consumers and the disproportionate impact, if any, on communities of color, older people, and other groups protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act, before raising the maximum rates that currency exchanges may charge to cash a check.


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Woodstock Institute is a leading nonprofit research and policy organization in the areas of equitable lending and investments, wealth creation and preservation, and safe and affordable financial products and services. Woodstock Institute works locally and nationally to create a financial system in which lower-wealth persons and communities of color can safely borrow, save, and build wealth so that they can achieve economic security and community prosperity.