Restructuring of the Financial Industry: The Disappearance of Locally Owned Traditional Financial Services in Rural America


  • This research is funded by USDA NIFA awards 2008–55401–04537 and 2011–67023–30072. An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Rural Sociological Society in Chicago, IL, in August 2012.


Restructuring in the financial services industry has altered the relationship between small business owners and capital. In the past small businesses have relied on relational, or soft data, lending from locally owned banks for capital. The proliferation of absentee-owned local branch networks brought standardized practices, thus eliminating the autonomy of local loan officers to utilize soft data in loan decisions. In this article we examine the changes in the percentage of traditional financial services that are locally owned in three county types: metropolitan, micropolitan, and noncore. We utilize the Longitudinal Business Database at the U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies. We examine changes in local ownership of traditional financial services between 1976 and 2007. We find that the rate of decline of local ownership has been greatest in the noncore (most rural) counties. We also explore to what extent these patterns are related to the emergence of alternative financial services during the same period. We find that such alternative services are growing in all three county types, but at rates not significantly different than the population growth for these county types. We supplement our analysis with data from qualitative interviews with small business owners throughout rural Texas. We conclude with a discussion of implications and plans for future research.