Over 40% of Rural Communities Lost Bank Branches in Recent Years
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System recently released a report highlighting the decline in bank branches in rural communities. Between 2012 and 2017, 40.7% of rural counties in America lost bank branches, limiting the access to many banking features. The overall number of branches in rural counties dropped by 7%.
Of the rural counties surveyed, only 8.4% gained bank branches over that time period, and 50.9% saw no change in the number of branches.
To put matters in perspective, rural counties reported an average of 1.8 branches per 100 square miles in 2017. Urban communities offered 18.4 branches per 100 square miles. In ‘deeply affected rural counties,’ there were only 0.3 branches per 100 miles. A deeply affected community is one that had 10 or fewer branches in 2012 and saw a decrease of at least 50% by 2017.
Despite a rise in mobile banking, most Americans still want access to physical bank branches. A Marqeta survey from earlier this year showed that only 14% of Americans want digital-only banking. A separate study from Kasasa showed that 86% of consumers look for physical branches when choosing a new financial institution.
The Fed report indicated a rise in mobile banking as bank branches declined, but that shift is not consistent across all populations.
“Particular consumers and small businesses are likely to be disproportionately harmed by changes in bank branch availability,” the report says. ”
Some consumer segments appear to have been left without sufficient, convenient, and low-cost access to the financial services they need to manage their financial lives.” The Federal Reserve is urging policymakers and financial institutions alike to create a “robust suite of financial services” that can help impacted communities obtain the support they need.