November 2008

The Evolving Relationship between Community Banks and Small Businesses: Evidence from the Surveys of Small Business Finances

Robin A. Prager and John D. Wolken


This paper uses data from the Federal Reserve Board's 1998 and 2003 Surveys of Small Business Finances (SSBFs) to examine the evolving relationship between community banks and small businesses. The SSBFs provide extensive data on the types of financial services used by small businesses and the sources of those services. These data allow us to answer a number of interesting questions regarding small business usage of community banks, including the following: To what extent do small businesses rely on community banks as providers of at least some financial services? What types of financial services are small businesses most likely to obtain from a community bank? What types of small businesses are most likely to obtain some or all of their financial services from a community bank? How have the answers to these questions changed between 1998 and 2003? In addition to providing detailed descriptions of the patterns of community bank usage observed in the data, we develop a simple reduced form model that uses both firm and local banking market characteristics to explain these patterns. We test a number of hypotheses regarding the extent to which community banks and larger banks differ with respect to the types of financial services provided to small businesses and the types of firms served. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings for the future of community banking.

Full paper (Screen Reader Version)

Keywords: Small businesses, community banks, financial services

PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: October 19, 2020