M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 37

The State and Fate of Community Banking

Marshall Lux
Robert Greene



This working paper focuses on the plight of community banks in the United States. It begins by examining different definitions of what constitutes a community bank, and goes on to review what makes these institutions unique and distinguishes them from larger regional or national peers. Our assessment of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data finds that community banks service a disproportionately large amount of key segments of the U.S. commercial bank lending market – specifically, agricultural, residential mortgage, and small business loans. However, community banks’ share of U.S. banking assets and lending markets has fallen from over 40 percent in 1994 to around 20 percent today. Interestingly, we find that community banks emerged from the financial crisis with a market share 6 percent lower, but since the second quarter of 2010 – around the time of the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act – their share of U.S. commercial banking assets has declined at a rate almost double that between the second quarters of 2006 and 2010. Particularly troubling is community banks’ declining market share in several key lending markets, their decline in small business lending volume, and the disproportionate losses being realized by particularly small community banks. We review studies on the impact of regulation, consumer trends and other factors on community banks, and examine the consequences of consolidation on U.S. lending markets. We conclude with a discussion of policies that could promote a more competitive and robust banking sector.

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