Do Metropolitan Areas have Equal Access to Banking?

Despard, Mathieu R.
Friedline, Terri
Financial Inclusion
Publication type: 

Metropolitan areas are places where the majority of residents in the US live and work. Each of these areas has unique features regarding education, employment, public transit options, arts, recreation, and worship opportunities. Each metropolitan area also has a unique financial services landscape – a mix of both mainstream and alternative financial services, which may offer households different types of products and services to help manage resources and make ends meet.

While prior research has examined the geo-spatial distribution of mainstream and alternative financial services within particular cities and metropolitan areas, little is known about how the availability of these services varies across metropolitan areas for the entire country. For instance, what is the availability of financial services in the Kansas City area, where the “snowbelt” city’s poverty rate is slightly higher than the national average, 30% of residents are Black, the population is growing, and the Federal Reserve and FDIC both have branches? And, how does the availability of Kansas City area’s financial services compare to that of the Detroit area, where the “rustbelt” city’s poverty rate is nearly three times the national average, 83% of residents are Black, the population is shrinking, and major manufacturing companies are closing? Or the Riverside, CA area, a “sunbelt” city located in the San Joaquin Valley with an agriculture-based economy, a poverty rate that is higher than the national average, and a Latino population of 48%? Variation in this availability may indicate that households living in different communities have greater or lesser access to financial services to promote financial stability.

Using financial services and community demographic data for 356 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the US, we compared the concentrations or densities of bank and credit union branches and alternative financial services.

Read the Full Report


Despard, M., & Friedline, T. (2017). Do metropolitan areas have equal access to banking? A geographic investigation of financial services availability. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, & Inclusion (AEDI).

New Book Released

Today’s student loan system is in place because of a political compromise, and growing discontent with student debt may signal that this arrangement has run its course. While there are resources and organizations in place to help those struggling with debt, the time has come to consider a new direction for financial aid, William Elliott III and Melinda Lewis argue in “Student Debt: A Reference Handbook.”

Why KU
  • One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
  • Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
  • 44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
    —U.S. News & World Report
  • Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
  • 23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times