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The Importance of Check-Cashing Businesses to the Unbanked: Racial/Ethnic Differences


  • Sherrie L. W. Rhine

    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

  • William H. Greene

    (New York University)

  • Maude Toussaint-Comeau

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)


The roughly 9.1% of all U.S. families that are without some type of transaction account (unbanked) are disproportionately represented among minorities. The unbanked often must rely on alternative ways to carry out basic financial transactions such as cashing payroll checks and paying bills. This study analyzes unique survey data and finds that a consumer's decision to patronize check-cashing businesses is jointly made with the decision to be unbanked. For the unbanked, these businesses are an important source of financial services. Attributes that contribute to these decisions, however, vary with the racial/ethnic group. Latent preference effects are also observed to influence this joint decision for blacks and Hispanics. These findings may explain in part why the provisions of the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA) of 1996 have not been more successful in bringing unbanked federal benefits recipients into the financial mainstream. Consumer participation in mainstream financial markets can improve their ability to build assets and create wealth, can protect them from theft and discriminatory, predatory, or otherwise unsavory lending practices, and may promote economic stability and vitality in the communities where they reside. By more fully understanding consumers' financial decisions, policies can be better directed to improve the effectiveness of legislation such as the DCIA of 1996 in encouraging mainstream financial market participation. © 2006 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Sherrie L. W. Rhine & William H. Greene & Maude Toussaint-Comeau, 2006. "The Importance of Check-Cashing Businesses to the Unbanked: Racial/Ethnic Differences," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 146-157, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:88:y:2006:i:1:p:146-157

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Constance R. Dunham, 2001. "The role of banks and nonbanks in serving low- and moderate income communities," Proceedings 903, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    2. Joseph J. Doyle & Jose A. Lopez & Marc R. Saidenberg, 1998. "How effective is lifeline banking in assisting the 'unbanked'?," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 4(Jun).
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    Cited by:

    1. Allen, Franklin & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Klapper, Leora & Martinez Peria, Maria Soledad, 2016. "The foundations of financial inclusion: Understanding ownership and use of formal accounts," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 1-30.
    2. Nestor Gandelman, 2008. "Female-Headed Households and Homeownership in Latin America," Research Department Publications 3252, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    3. Smriti Rao & Hazel Malapit, 2015. "Gender, Household Structure and Financial Participation in the United States," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 606-620, December.
    4. Julie Birkenmaier & Qiang Fu, 2016. "The Association of Alternative Financial Services Usage and Financial Access: Evidence from the National Financial Capability Study," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 450-460, September.
    5. Christelis, Dimitris & Georgarakos, Dimitris, 2013. "Investing at home and abroad: Different costs, different people?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2069-2086.
    6. Goodstein, Ryan M. & Rhine, Sherrie L.W., 2017. "The effects of bank and nonbank provider locations on household use of financial transaction services," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 91-107.
    7. Leora Klapper & Sandeep Singh, 2015. "The Gender Gap in the Use of Financial Services in Turkey," World Bank Other Operational Studies 25412, The World Bank.
    8. Elliott, William & Kim, Johnny S., 2013. "The role of identity-based motivation and solution-focus brief therapy in unifying accounts and financial education in school-related CDA programs," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 402-410.
    9. Miriam Marcén, 2012. "Labour and leisure costs of informal caregivers," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(1), pages 449-455.
    10. Stanley, Denise & Bhattacharya, Radha, 2008. "The informal financial sector in the U.S.: The role of remittances," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 1-21, February.
    11. Michal Grinstein-Weiss & Yeong Yeo & Mathieu Despard & Adriane Casalotti & Min Zhan, 2010. "Does Prior Banking Experience Matter? Differences of the Banked and Unbanked in Individual Development Accounts," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 212-227, June.
    12. Nestor Gandelman, 2008. "Hogares encabezados por mujeres y propiedad de la vivienda en América Latina," Research Department Publications 3253, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    13. Seligman, Jason S. & Bose, Rana, 2012. "Learning by doing: Active employer sponsored retirement savings plan participation and household wealth accumulation," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 162-172.
    14. Bracha, Anat & Meier, Stephan, 2014. "Nudging credit scores in the field: the effect of text reminders on creditworthiness in the United States," Working Papers 15-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    15. Silvia Helena Barcellos & James P. Smith & Joanne K. Yoong & Leandro Siqueira Carvalho, 2012. "Barriers to Immigrant Use of Financial Services The Role of Language Skills, U.S. Experience, and Return Migration Expectations," Working Papers WR-923-SSA, RAND Corporation.
    16. repec:eee:econom:v:199:y:2017:i:1:p:63-73 is not listed on IDEAS

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