Seventeen million Americans live without a bank account, exposing themselves to risks of monetary loss, fraud, and high costs associated with alternative financial services such as check-cashers. This study, conducted by the Pew Health Group's Safe Banking Opportunities Project, explores the connections between financial services, the populations they serve or are failing to serve, and the financial stability of those populations.
“Slipping Behind: Low-Income Los Angeles Households Drift Further from the Financial Mainstream,” builds on Pew's 2010 report, “Unbanked by Choice,” which examined the types of services used by low-income households in Greater Los Angeles and the factors that affected their participation in the marketplace. This study analyzed the financial progression from 2009 to 2010 of families, including 1,000 households with at least one bank account and 1,000 households with no bank accounts.
The report finds the ranks of the “unbanked”— those without checking or savings accounts – increased, with more families closing bank accounts (13 percent) than opening them (8 percent) last year. The study shows that a safe, affordable bank account enables families to save money securely, pay bills, and better plan for their future financial needs.
The study notes: those who live without a bank account expose themselves to risks of theft and high costs associated with alternative financial services providers, such as check-cashing operations. Pew's data show that low-income respondents who left banking in the past year either conduct business entirely in cash (59 percent) or rely on both cash transactions and check-cashing institutions (26 percent).
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Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information visit the Safe Banking Opportunities Project on PewHealth.org.