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Who Uses Credit Unions? Third Edition

This is the third edition of an earlier Filene report. It uses data from the most recent Survey of Consumer Finance, sponsored by the Federal Reserve, and it updates and reconfirms a number of earlier findings.

  • Jinkook Lee PhD, Professor of Consumer Science and Research Associate at the Center for Human Resources Research at Ohio State University
  • William Kelly Center for Credit Union Research at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Executive Summary

This report reconfirms and updates research findings that run counter to two general perceptions about credit unions and statements often made about credit unions: 1) that credit union members are more affluent than bank customers; and 2) that people are exclusively members or non-members of credit unions.

These general perceptions have created misunderstandings about who credit union members are and what their financial status is. Misperceptions can lead to improper public policy and also can waste credit union marketing resources.

What is the research about?

Unlike other demographic studies of credit union membership, this report and its two earlier editions go beyond comparing credit union members with non-members, or comparing credit union members with bank customers. Simple, dichotomous comparisons like those give an incomplete view of how households use financial institutions. They overlook households that do not use a depository institution at all and households that use both banks and credit unions.

To overcome these shortcomings, we divided the surveyed households into five categories bank only, primarily bank, primarily credit unions, credit union only and unbanked.

What are the credit union implications?

The five-category approach presented in this report has advantages over a two-category approach of "members" and "non-members" for developing credit union marketing and educational programs, and for evaluating public policy issues that affect credit unions.