FDIC’s 2019 Household Survey questionnaire out for comment

A survey form to be used next year to measure and track economic inclusion among U.S. households is being reviewed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), which is accepting comments on the survey and questionnaire until Jan. 7.

The FDIC, through a notice published Tuesday in the Federal Register, is inviting the general public and other federal agencies to comment on the questionnaire to be used for its sixth National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households (Household Survey).

The survey is conducted every two years; the last one was in 2017 (see previous story). Scheduled to be conducted in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to the bureau’s June 2019 Current Population Survey (CPS), the survey seeks to track and measure economic inclusion, and to identify the factors that inhibit the participation of households in the mainstream banking system as well as opportunities to expand the use of banking services among underserved consumers.

“The results of these ongoing surveys will help policymakers and bankers understand the issues and challenges underserved households perceive when deciding how and where to conduct financial transactions,” the FDIC says.

The 2019 survey is expected to involve an estimated 40,000 U.S. households and is expected to take about 15 minutes to complete, according to the F.R. notice.

The National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, besides furthering FDIC’s efforts to promote inclusion, also helps the agency comply with Section 7 of the 2005 Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Conforming Amendments Act, which directs the agency to conduct ongoing surveys “on efforts by insured depository institutions to bring those individuals and families who have rarely, if ever, held a checking account, a savings account or other type of transaction or check cashing account at an insured depository institution,” the agency notes.

According to the notice, Section 7 instructs the FDIC to consider several factors in its conduct of the surveys, including: (1) “What cultural, language and identification issues as well as transaction costs appear to most prevent ‘unbanked’ individuals from establishing conventional accounts”; and (2) “what is a fair estimate of the size and worth of the ‘unbanked’ market in the United States.”

The national survey is designed to address these factors and provide a factual basis on the proportions of unbanked households. It’s also the only population-representative survey conducted at the national level that provides state-level estimates of the size and characteristics of unbanked and underbanked households for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the agency says.

FDIC says it already has arrangements in place for the 2019 survey, but it’s seeking public comment on whether and to what extent the survey instrument should be revised. The agency emphasizes, however, that “as a supplement of the CPS survey, the Household Survey needs to adhere to specific parameters that include limits in the length and sensitivity of the questions that can be asked of CPS respondents.”

Proposed 2019 survey questionnaire

Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Revision of Information Collection; National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households; Comment Request (Federal Register notice)

Rates of ‘unbanked, underbanked’ households fell in 2017, report states; mobile banking increase ‘striking’ (Reg Report, Oct. 23, 2018)