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Why are big banks getting bigger?

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  • Ricardo T. Fernholz
  • Christoffer Koch

Abstract

The U.S. banking sector has become substantially more concentrated since the 1990s, raising questions about both the causes and implications of this consolidation. We address these questions using nonparametric empirical methods that characterize dynamic power law distributions in terms of two shaping factors ? the reversion rates (a measure of crosssectional mean reversion) and idiosyncratic volatilities of assets for different size-ranked banks. Using quarterly data for subsidiary commercial banks and thrifts and their parent bank-holding companies, we show that the greater concentration of U.S. bank-holding company assets is a result of lower mean reversion, a result consistent with policy changes such as interstate branching deregulation and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. In contrast, the greater concentration of both U.S. commercial bank and thrift assets is a result of higher idiosyncratic volatility, yet, idiosyncratic volatility of parent bank-holding company assets fell. This contrast suggests that diversification through non-banking activities has reduced the idiosyncratic asset volatilities of the largest bank-holding companies and affected systemic risk.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo T. Fernholz & Christoffer Koch, 2016. "Why are big banks getting bigger?," Working Papers 1604, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:feddwp:1604
    DOI: 10.24149/wp1604
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    File URL: http://www.dallasfed.org/assets/documents/research/papers/2016/wp1604.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ricardo T. Fernholz, 2017. "The distributional effects of progressive capital taxes," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(2), pages 99-112, April.
    2. Ricardo T. Fernholz, 2016. "Empirical Methods for Dynamic Power Law Distributions in the Social Sciences," Papers 1602.00159, arXiv.org, revised Jun 2016.
    3. Dávila, Eduardo & Walther, Ansgar, 2020. "Does size matter? Bailouts with large and small banks," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 1-22.
    4. Ricardo T. Fernholz & Robert Fernholz, 2016. "A Rank-Based Approach to Zipf's Law," Papers 1602.08533, arXiv.org.
    5. Eduardo Dávila & Ansgar Walther, 2017. "Does Size Matter? Bailouts with Large and Small Banks," NBER Working Papers 24132, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Ricardo T. Fernholz & Robert Fernholz, 2017. "Zipf's Law for Atlas Models," Papers 1707.04285, arXiv.org, revised Jun 2020.
    7. Bordo, Michael D. & Duca, John V. & Koch, Christoffer, 2016. "Economic policy uncertainty and the credit channel: Aggregate and bank level U.S. evidence over several decades," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 90-106.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bank size distributions; bank structure; dynamic power laws; financial stability; non-bank activities; nonparametric methods; systemic risk;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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