Are Americans too broke to own bank accounts?

by: Eric McWhinnie

If you want to know how broke some Americans are these days, just look at their bank accounts, or lack thereof. A new report finds that one in 13 households in the United States do not have bank accounts, with the most common reason cited being a lack of money.

Despite an economy that is slowly improving from the Great Recession, millions of Americans are unbanked. According to the FDIC and Census Bureau, 9.6 million households representing 25 million people were unbanked in 2013, down only 0.5% from 2011. In fact, 24 million households representing 68 million people were underbanked last year, meaning they had a bank account but also relied on alternative financial services outside of the traditional banking system.

“In many cases, financial life events such as job loss, significant income loss, or a new job, appear to be important reasons why households leave or enter the banking system,” explains the report. “Recently unbanked households were relatively more likely to have experienced adverse financial life events such as job loss or significant income loss. Because these results show that adverse financial events appear to be more closely associated with bank account closing decisions than other types of life events, policy makers and industry participants might consider ways to cushion the impact of adverse financial shocks on a household’s ability or desire to maintain a bank account.”

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