Since the massive destruction of middle and lower class wealth during the Great Recession, another lingering crisis has become more and more apparent in this country: the enormous number of individuals who are unbanked or underbanked. These people lack access to banks in their neighborhoods and many do not have the minimum amount to open accounts at most traditional banks. As of 2014, 88 million people, or 38% of the population of the United States, fell into this category.
A solution for the unbanked has thankfully already existed in the United States, and similar programs continue to be successful around the world: postal banking. Under this system, eligible individuals would be able to open free checking and savings accounts at their local post office, receive low interest loans to start small businesses, and pay their bills without paying additional fees.
Central Arkansas is the perfect example of a region that would benefit tremendously from postal banking. Little Rock specifically exemplifies the huge disparities in access to banking across socioeconomic and racial lines. In the affluent Heights neighborhood, there are 14 traditional banking institutions within a 2.82 mile radius. This density contrasts sharply with East Little Rock (the 12th Street Corridor), which has only one traditional bank in 13 square miles. It should not be surprising that these underbanked communities are also communities of color, clear evidence of our banking system's complicity in a broader system of injustice in America.
Establishing a system of postal banking would be a major step towards righting the unnecessary financial hardships we have placed on the poor, and realizing a more just economic system where every American has the freedom and opportunity to build their wealth and strive for a better life.