Understanding the Racial/Ethnic Gap in Bank Account Ownership among Older Adults


School of Public Policy

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The observed racial/ethnic gap in bank account ownership among older adults is substantial. We investigate socioeconomic, cognitive, and cultural barriers underling it. As additional potential barriers are accounted for, the residual gaps in financial inclusion with respect to Whites are reduced by 19% for blacks and 46% for Hispanics. We find that citizenship and “taste for privacy” play a limited role for both minority groups, while real asset ownership, health, cognitive ability, and cultural hurdles contribute substantially to the gap. For Hispanics, language barriers explain most of the gap, while neighborhood-level socioeconomic characteristics are more salient for blacks. We also examine how the racial/ethnic composition of couples influences financial decisions. We estimate a significantly smaller residual gap between “mixed” and white couples than between minority and white couples. We provide empirical evidence suggesting that, other things equal, mixed couples are less concerned with the cultural/psychological barriers facing minority couples.

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The Journal of Consumer Affairs



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