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Are U.S. banks too large?

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  • David C. Wheelock
  • Paul Wilson

Abstract

The number of commercial banks in the United States has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1984. This consolidation of the U.S. banking industry and the accompanying large increase in average (and median) bank size have prompted concerns about the effects of consolidation and increasing bank size on market competition and on the number of banks that regulators deem “too big to fail.” Agency problems and perverse incentives created by government policies are often cited as reasons why many banks of pursued acquisitions and growth, though bankers often point to economies of scale. This paper presents new estimates of ray-scale and expansion-path scale economies for U.S. banks based on nonparametric local-linear estimation of a model of bank costs. Unlike prior studies that use models with restrictive parametric assumptions or limited samples, our methodology is fully nonparametric and we estimate returns to scale for all U.S. banks over the period 1984-2006. Our estimates indicate that as recently as 2006, most U.S. banks faced increasing returns to scale, suggesting that scale economies are a plausible (but not necessarily only) reason for the growth in average bank size and that the tendency toward increasing scale is likely to continue unless checked by government intervention.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2009-054.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2009-054

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Keywords: Banks and banking ; Economies of scale ; Bank failures;

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References

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  1. David C. Wheelock & Paul W. Wilson, 1997. "New evidence on returns to scale and product mix among U.S. commercial banks," Working Papers 1997-003, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  2. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester & Choon-Geol Moon, 2000. "Are scale economies in banking elusive or illusive? Evidence obtained by incorporating capital structure and risk-taking into models of bank production," Working Papers 00-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. Mitchell A. Petersen & Raghuram G. Rajan, 2002. "Does Distance Still Matter? The Information Revolution in Small Business Lending," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(6), pages 2533-2570, December.
  4. Guohua Feng & Apostolos Serletis, 2009. "Efficiency, Technical Change, and Returns to Scale in Large U.S. Banks: Panel Data Evidence from an Output Distance Function Satisfying Theoretical Regularity," Monash Econometrics and Business Statistics Working Papers 5/09, Monash University, Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics.
  5. Allen N. Berger & Loretta J. Mester, 2002. "Explaining the dramatic changes in performance of U.S. banks: technological change, deregulation, and dynamic changes in competition," Working Papers 01-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  6. Guilkey, David K & Lovell, C A Knox & Sickles, Robin C, 1983. "A Comparison of the Performance of Three Flexible Functional Forms," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(3), pages 591-616, October.
  7. Jianqing Fan & Theo Gasser & Irène Gijbels & Michael Brockmann & Joachim Engel, 1997. "Local Polynomial Regression: Optimal Kernels and Asymptotic Minimax Efficiency," Annals of the Institute of Statistical Mathematics, Springer, vol. 49(1), pages 79-99, March.
  8. McAllister, Patrick H. & McManus, Douglas, 1993. "Resolving the scale efficiency puzzle in banking," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 389-405, April.
  9. R. Alton Gilbert & Adam M. Zaretsky, 2003. "Banking antitrust: are the assumptions still valid?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 29-52.
  10. Allen N. Berger, 2002. "The economic effects of technological progress: evidence from the banking industry," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-50, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  11. Racine, Jeff & Li, Qi, 2004. "Nonparametric estimation of regression functions with both categorical and continuous data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 119(1), pages 99-130, March.
  12. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
  13. Sealey, Calvin W, Jr & Lindley, James T, 1977. "Inputs, Outputs, and a Theory of Production and Cost at Depository Financial Institutions," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1251-66, September.
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  15. Mitchell, Karlyn & Onvural, Nur M, 1996. "Economies of Scale and Scope at Large Commercial Banks: Evidence from the Fourier Flexible Functional Form," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(2), pages 178-99, May.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Nicolas Véron & Morris Goldstein, 2011. "Too big to fail: the transatlantic debate," Working Papers 495, Bruegel.
  2. Craig P. Aubuchon & David C. Wheelock, 2010. "The geographic distribution and characteristics of U.S. bank failures, 2007-2010: do bank failures still reflect local economic conditions?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 395-415.
  3. Sameh Charfeddine Karray & Jamel eddine Chichti, 2013. "Bank Size and Efficiency in Developing Countries: Intermediation Approach versus Value Added Approach and Impact of Non-Traditional Activities," Asian Economic and Financial Review, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 3(5), pages 593-613, May.

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