Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released a comprehensive new report titled “U.S. Bank Branch Closures and Banking Deserts,” which finds that banking deserts – defined as neighborhoods with no bank branches nearby – across U.S. communities are on the rise, evident in a decline in the total number of bank branches of 5.6 percent, an increase in the number of banking deserts of 217, and an increase in the number of Americans living in banking deserts of 760,000. Critically, the report found that “Majority–American Indian and Alaska Native tract populations are disproportionately represented in [banking] deserts – 46.4 percent of the populations living in these tracts were living in banking deserts in 2023, over 12 times the national average of 3.8 percent. Notably, the [new] Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) final rule explicitly acknowledges disproportionate barriers faced by Native populations in accessing banking and credit, and expands opportunities for banks to earn CRA credit through activities in Native Land Areas.”

Native CDFI Network CEO Pete Upton issued the following statement in response to the report’s release:

“As CEO of NCN, I am deeply committed to addressing the significant economic disparities faced by American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations, particularly in accessing essential financial services. The alarming statistic reveals that nearly half of individuals residing in our communities are living in banking deserts. This is an outrage and underscores the urgent need for action. It’s imperative that we acknowledge and eliminate the barriers hindering Native populations from accessing banking and credit facilities. The recent CRA Final Rule marks a positive step forward in that regard, as it explicitly recognizes these disparities and seeks to expand opportunities for banks to earn CRA credit through investments in Native CDFIs and Native Land Areas. At NCN, we are dedicated to leveraging these opportunities to empower Native communities, foster economic inclusion, and ensure equitable access to financial resources for all. For those of us immersed in this work across Indian Country on daily basis, this report comes as no surprise — only disappointment, which is compounded by the fact that just last week major banking trade associations filed lawsuits to obstruct the CRA final rule introduced last October. Banks’ decision to undertake this course of action fills me with profound disappointment, and NCN will do everything in its power to hold them accountable to the CRA and provide Native people equitable access to banking and credit.”  

Click here to view the Banking Deserts Dashboard based on each census tract.

To read the report, please click here.