Numerous studies of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided loans to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, have documented racial disparities in the program. Because publicly available PPP data only include information on approved loans, prior work has largely been unable to assess whether these disparities were driven by borrower application behavior or by lender approval decisions. In this post, which is based on a related Staff Report and NBER working paper, we use the Federal Reserve’s 2020 Small Business Credit Survey to examine PPP application behavior and approval decisions and to study the strengths and limitations of fintech lenders in enhancing access to credit for Black-owned businesses.
Proponents of narrow banking have argued that lender of last resort policies by central banks, along with deposit insurance and other government interventions in the money markets, are the primary causes of financial instability. However, as we show in this post, non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) triggered a financial crisis in 1772 even though the financial system at that time had few banks and deposits were not insured. NBFIs profited from funding risky, longer-dated assets using cheap short-term wholesale funding and, when they eventually failed, authorities felt compelled to rescue the financial system.
The Federal Reserve’s primary credit program—offered through its “discount window” (DW)—provides temporary short-term funding to fundamentally sound banks. Historically, loan activity has been low during normal times due to a variety of factors, including the DW’s status as a back-up source of liquidity with a relatively punitive interest rate, the stigma attached to DW borrowing from the central bank, and, since 2008, elevated levels of reserves in the banking system. However, beginning in 2022, DW borrowing under the primary credit program increased notably in comparison to past years. In this post, we examine the factors that may have contributed to this recent trend.
Several centralized crypto entities failed in 2022, resulting in the cascading failure of other crypto firms and raising questions about the protection of crypto investors. While the total amount invested in the crypto sector remains small in the United States, more than 10 percent of all Americans are invested in cryptocurrencies. In this post, we examine whether migrating crypto activities from centralized platforms to decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols might afford investors better protection, especially in the absence of regulatory changes. We argue that while DeFi provides some benefits for investors, it also introduces new risks and so more work is needed to make it a viable option for mainstream investors.
The first post of this series found that small businesses owned by people of color are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. In this post, we focus on the aftermath of disasters, and examine disparities in the ability of firms to reopen their businesses and access disaster relief. Our results indicate that Black-owned firms are more likely to remain closed for longer periods and face greater difficulties in obtaining the immediate relief needed to cope with a natural disaster.
Recent research has linked climate change and socioeconomic inequality (see here, here, and here). But what are the effects of climate change on small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color, which tend to be more resource-constrained and less resilient? In a series of two posts, we use the Federal Reserve’s Small Business Credit Survey (SBCS) to document small businesses’ experiences with natural disasters and how these experiences differ based on the race and ethnicity of business owners. This first post shows that small firms owned by people of color sustain losses from natural disasters at a disproportionately higher rate than other small businesses, and that these losses make up a larger portion of their total revenues. In the second post, we explore the ability of small firms to reopen and to obtain disaster relief funding in the aftermath of climate events.
Prior research has shown that many small and minority-owned businesses failed to receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in 2020. To increase program uptake to underserved firms, several changes were made to the PPP in 2021. Using data from the Federal Reserve Banks’ 2021 Small Business Credit Survey, we argue that these changes were effective in improving program access for nonemployer firms (that is, businesses with no employees other than the owner(s)). The changes may also have encouraged more applications from minority-owned firms, but they do not appear to have reduced disparities in approval rates between white- and minority-owned firms.
The U.S. dollar has played a preeminent role in the global economy since the second World War. It is used as a reserve currency and the currency of denomination for a large fraction of global trade and financial transactions. The status of the U.S. dollar engenders important considerations for the effectiveness of U.S. policy instruments and the functioning of global financial markets. These considerations include understanding potential factors that may alter the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the future, such as changes in the macroeconomic and policy environments or the development of new technologies and payment systems.
June 2022 marks the 250th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1772-3 credit crisis. Although not widely known today, this was arguably the first “modern” global financial crisis in terms of the role that private-sector credit and financial products played in it, in the paths of financial contagion that propagated the initial shock, and in the way authorities intervened to stabilize markets. In this post, we describe these developments and note the parallels with modern financial crises.
Regulations are not written in stone. The benefits derived from them, along with the costs of compliance for affected institutions and of enforcement for regulators, are likely to evolve. When this happens, regulators may seek to modify the regulations to better suit the specific risk profiles of regulated entities. In this post, we consider the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) passed by Congress in 2018, which eased banking regulations for smaller institutions. We focus on one regulation—the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR)—and assess how its relaxation affected newly exempt banks’ assets and liabilities, and the resilience of the banking system.