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Are banks dead? Or are the reports greatly exaggerated?


  • John H. Boyd
  • Mark Gertler


This article reexamines the conventional wisdom that commercial banking is in severe decline. A careful reading of the evidence does not support it. True, on-balance sheet assets held by commercial banks have declined as a share of total intermediary assets. But this measure ignores the substantial growth in banks' off-balance sheet activities, in off-shore lending by foreign banks, and in the size of the financial intermediation sector. Adjusted for these considerations, the bank-assets measure shows no clear evidence of secular decline. Neither does an alternative measure, constructed using data from the national income accounts. At most, banking may have suffered a slight loss of market share lately. But this loss is a temporary response to a series of adverse shocks rather than the start of a permanent decline.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Boyd & Mark Gertler, 1994. "Are banks dead? Or are the reports greatly exaggerated?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 2-23.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmqr:y:1994:i:sum:p:2-23:n:v.18no.3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christina D. Romer & David Romer, 1993. "Credit channel or credit actions? an interpretation of the postwar transmission mechanism," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 71-149.
    2. Boyd, John H. & Runkle, David E., 1993. "Size and performance of banking firms : Testing the predictions of theory," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 47-67, February.
    3. Peek, Joe & Rosengren, Eric, 1995. "The Capital Crunch: Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(3), pages 625-638, August.
    4. Ben S. Bernanke & Cara S. Lown, 1991. "The Credit Crunch," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 205-248.
    5. Allen N. Berger & David B. Humphrey, 1992. "Measurement and Efficiency Issues in Commercial Banking," NBER Chapters,in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 245-300 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Dennis J. Fixler & Kimberly D. Zieschang, 1992. "User Costs, Shadow Prices, and the Real Output of Banks," NBER Chapters,in: Output Measurement in the Service Sectors, pages 219-243 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Frederick T. Furlong, 1991. "Can bank capital regulation work? research revisited," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Sum, pages 32-33.
    8. Robert N. McCauley & Rama Seth, 1992. "Foreign bank credit to U.S. corporations: the implications of offshore loans," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Spr, pages 52-65.
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