The percentage of households that have neither a checking nor savings account (unbanked) or have an account but instead relied on alternative financial services (underbanked) in the past 12 months.
Having access to and using checking and savings accounts and other financial products can help families save money, plan for the future, and build credit. Rates of underbanked and unbanked households may indicate limited access to resources, especially in low-income communities. Without a bank account, one must pay fees for cashing checks that accumulate over time.
Access to financial services was lower among African American and Hispanic residents in Essex County than it was for white or Asian residents in 2017. Unbanked or underbanked rates in Essex were 46% for both African Americans and Hispanics compared to 22% for Asians, and 16% for whites. These were similar to disparities in the United States as a whole.
Essex County had the highest shares of unbanked or underbanked Hispanics and Asians in 2017 compared to Middlesex, Westchester NY, and Lake, IL. Its rates among African Americans and whites were similar to comparison counties.
Scholars have uncovered the connections between racial disparities in access to financial services and historical and contemporary practices that disadvantage the Black community and other people of color and contribute to gaps in wealth that have compounded over generations. Policies to exclude people of color from financial systems and capital included redlining, which prevented many Black people from obtaining mortgages. Historic incidents, including the demise of the href="https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/summer/freedmans-savings-and-trust.html" target="_blank">Freedman's Savings and Trust in 1874 which resulted in a $2.9 million loss for mostly Black depositors lacking federal insurance, contributed to ongoing mistrust of financial institutions. Today, there is a dearth of bank branches in some neighborhoods and people of color tend to pay more for bank products such as car loans or mortgages even when they have comparable credit ratings as white peers.
Underbanked households are those that have a checking and/or a savings account but have used non-bank money orders, non-bank check-cashing services, non-bank remittances, payday loans, rent-to-own services, pawn shops or refund anticipation loans (RALs) in the past 12 months. Unbanked households have neither a checking nor savings account.