Bank On, a non-profit that attempts to help the unbanked and underbanked to enter the financial mainstream, has launched a new website with a new feature that lets users see how many underbanked people live in their community.
Bank On works with credit unions and banks on a local level “to reduce barriers to banking and increase access to the financial mainstream,” for those who do not currently have that access. They seek to help the unbanked and underbanked get access to proper banking services because they depend too heavily on services which “deplete, rather than preserve, their money,” like check cashing services and pawn shops.
Their website has been updated to show anyone interested in starting a Bank On program in their community how many households are unbanked and underbanked, on a local, metro and state level. While it won’t tell you much different from how poor your municipality is compared to surrounding areas — which might not be news — it could prove useful for policy professionals seeking to find places whose unbanked rate is higher than their poverty rate would suggest. If you found one of these, you’d have found a sort of “banking desert” — a place where more people could be served were there more banks in the area, or were banks easier to join.
Take Detroit for example. Punch that into Bank On’s search engine, and we discover that the Motor City has nearly triple the national average of unbanked households: 20 percent compared to 7.7. It’s also well above the statewide figure, 6.7 percent; it’s about exactly three times the statewide average, but Detroit’s poverty level is only 2.2 times the state’s poverty level — 33.2 percent in the city compared to 14.5 percent in the state.
So in Detroit, we clearly have a something like a banking desert — people are unbanked at a higher rate than statewide numbers suggest they ought to be. Of course, Bank On already has a program in Detroit, so hopefully we’ll see some improvement in these number (hopefully).
You can research your community’s unbanked and underbanked levels at Bank On’s website.