Abstract: WITHDRAWN A Policy Mapping Analysis of Goals Related to Bank Accounts in Federal Legislative Proposals (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

WITHDRAWN A Policy Mapping Analysis of Goals Related to Bank Accounts in Federal Legislative Proposals

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Independence BR G, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Julie Birkenmaier, Professor, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO
Alana Jansson, MSW, Volunteer Development Coordinator, LovetheLou, Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO
Background: For several decades, scholars and government entities (e.g., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve, Congressional committees) have called attention to the problem of unbanked and underbanked in the U.S. The challenges of the unbanked and underbanked has structural roots in policy related to the financial system. Mainstream financial institutions, (i.e., retail banks and credit unions), provide basic bank accounts for the majority of the U.S. population, yet policy falls short of sufficiently incentivizing or requiring them to provide basic accounts for everyone. Policy solutions have long been proposed by scholars and policymakers to reduce or eliminate financial exclusion related to accounts. Yet little research has systematically analyzed Congressional proposals to these problems. This paper examined the policy landscape around these efforts by exploring the following research questions: 1. What policy goals that may impact the availability of low-cost, basic bank accounts have been introduced in Congress as legislation?; 2. How far in the legislative process did the legislation advance?; 3. What populations did these proposed laws target?; 4. What related policy goals were pursued most ardently over the past 20 years?
Methods: We conducted a policy mapping content analysis of all bank-account-related bills (N = 32) proposed in Congress between Jan, 1999–May, 2020 (106th - 116th Congresses). Policy mapping is a systematic content analysis technique wherein researchers identify and analyze policy content in a topical area. Two researchers independently coded basic characteristics (e.g. type, status, sponsorship), focal populations, and illustrative mechanisms for policy goals using a taxonomy developed by the researchers. Researchers compared codes and addressed discrepancies through consensus. New codes were created as needed.

Results: The dataset consisted of 32 bills. The bills were fairly evenly distributed among the various Congresses, with the largest number in the 116th Congress (2019-2021). The vast majority were House bills (90.6%), and introduced by Democrats (78.1%). A minority of bills had companion legislation (34%) or similar bills introduced over more than one Congressional session (“matched”) (38%). A very small minority had both companion legislation and matched legislation (15.6%). Most items (75%) did not progress beyond introduction and assignment to committee.

Goals appearing most often were expanding access to bank accounts (81.2%), increasing consumer protection (81.2%), and reducing costs of basic accounts (78.2%). Increasing consumer disclosure (37.5%) and expanding the type of institutions that offer basic accounts (9.4%) were addressed infrequently in the legislation. No legislation addressed the policy goal of expanding account access in minority populations and communities. Explicit attention toward unbanked and underbanked households, racial/ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable populations, was rare.

Implications: The most commonly occurring policy goals of expanding access, reducing costs, and increasing consumer protection are primarily focused on proximal factors for lack of access, rather than the root causes of access barriers. Congressional attention to this topic is noticeably lax in comparison to the attention paid by federal regulatory agencies and related academic literature. Expanded legislative attention to the policy goals of expanding access and types of institutions that offer accounts is needed.