Contact:  Geoff Smith, Project Director
(312) 427-8070

Nowhere to Bank:  Despite Expanding Branch Networks and  Strong Deposit Potential, Lower-Income and Minority Communities Still Can’t Find a Branch

[Chicago] – The recent boom in bank branches seen throughout the Chicago region has not touched all communities equally, leaving low-income and minority communities underserved.  New evidence from Woodstock Institute indicates the largest area banks have not expanded commensurately into lower-income and minority markets despite the substantial purchasing power and concentration of potential deposits available in these communities.

A recent Woodstock Institute report shows that many lower-income and minority communities have concentrated household incomes able to support new bank branches but have seen either slow growth or a loss of local branches. Throughout the Chicago region, lower income and minority zip codes have fewer bank branches per capita, yet have higher levels of aggregate household income per bank office than the regional average.

While many affluent municipalities and neighborhoods are passing laws to limit new bank branches from opening, a number of lower-income and minority communities are trying to attract new branches or keep the few that they have.

“The rapid expansion of several area banks has been focused on affluent markets, “said Geoff Smith, Project Director at Woodstock Institute, “but many banks have been ignoring viable modest-income and minority markets.”

Country Club Hills, a middle-income, minority community in the South Suburbs lost one of their two bank branches in 2002. “Banks are tripping over themselves to open another new branch in Lincoln Park, but largely ignoring communities like ours where there is significant potential business,” says County Club Hill’s, Mayor, Dwight W. Welch. 

The reports major findings show:
1.       Zip codes greater than 80 percent minority had 1.11 offices per 10,000 people and an aggregate income per bank branch of over $124 million compared to six-county averages of 2.78 per 10,000 people and $89 million aggregate household income per branch.

2.       Full service bank branches in the Chicago six-county area increased by nearly 23 percent between 2002 and 2004. Upper-income areas experienced a 27 percent increase in full service branches over this time, while lower-income areas saw a modest 16 percent increase. 

3.       The region’s largest banks had 14.5 percent of their full service bank branches in lower -income zip codes compared to the 16.2 percent regional average. These same banks had only 16.2 percent of their full service bank branches in minority zip codes compared to the 18.6 percent regional average.

The full version of the report is available for download:

Reinvestment Alert 27 – Increase in Bank Branches Shortchanges Lower-Income and Minority Communities

Woodstock Institute, founded in 1973, is a nationally-recognized resource on credit and capital needs of low-income and minority communities. The Institute engages in applied research, policy development, and technical assistance to promote community economic development.