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Obelix vs. Asterix: Size of US commercial banks and its regulatory challenge

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  • Diego Restrepo-Tobón
  • Subal Kumbhakar
  • Kai Sun

Abstract

Big banks pose substantial costs to society in the form of increased systemic risk and government bailouts during crises. So the question is: Should regulators limit the size of banks? To answer this question, regulators need to assess the potential costs of such regulations. If big banks enjoy substantial scale economies (i.e., average costs get lower as bank size increases), limiting the size of banks through regulations may be inefficient and likely to reduce social welfare. However, the literature offers conflicting results regarding the existence of economies of scale for the biggest US banks. We contribute to this literature using a novel approach to estimating nonparametric measures of scale economies and total factor productivity (TFP) growth. For US commercial banks, we find that around 73 % of the top one hundred banks, 98 % of medium and small banks, and seven of the top ten biggest banks by asset size exhibit substantial economies of scale. Likewise, we find that scale economies contribute positively and significantly to their TFP growth. The existence of substantial scale economies raises an important challenge for regulators to pursue size limit regulations. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

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  • Diego Restrepo-Tobón & Subal Kumbhakar & Kai Sun, 2015. "Obelix vs. Asterix: Size of US commercial banks and its regulatory challenge," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 125-168, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:regeco:v:48:y:2015:i:2:p:125-168
    DOI: 10.1007/s11149-015-9275-1
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bank regulation; Economies of scale; Returns to scale; Nonparametric methods; L51; G21; G28; D24; L25; C14;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General

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