Reports - Findings from Analysis of Nationwide
Summary Statistics for 1997 CRA Data
Fact Sheet (August 1998)

Tables are in Portable Document Format (PDF).

The following analyses of nationwide summary statistics are based on data compiled by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) for institutions reporting pursuant to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).


The CRA is intended to encourage federally insured commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered. The 1995 revisions to the CRA regulations require larger commercial banks and savings associations to report data on their small business, small farm, and community development lending. The institutions subject to these requirements generally include independent institutions with total assets of $250 million or more, and institutions of any size if owned by a holding company that has assets of $1 billion or more. Analysis of Call Report data on small business and small farm loans outstanding indicates that lenders reporting under the CRA account for about two-thirds of the small business loans and one-fifth of the small farm loans extended by all commercial banks and savings associations. The small business and small farm lending data, when coupled with information reported about the geographic locations that constitute each reporting institution’s local CRA service area(s), make it possible to better assess the performance of reporting institutions under the CRA lending test. 1

The small business and small farm lending data reported under the CRA regulations are more limited in scope than data reported on home lending under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). In particular, the CRA data include information only on loans originated or purchased, not on applications that are turned down or withdrawn by the customer. Unlike HMDA data, the CRA data do not include information about applicant income, gender, or racial or ethnic background, although the CRA data do indicate whether a loan is extended to a borrower having revenues of $1 million or less. Finally the CRA data are not reported application-by-application, as HMDA data are, but rather are aggregated into three loan-size categories and then are reported at the census tract level.

CRA data furnish a valuable tool for many different types of analyses. At the same time, the analysis of CRA data poses challenges--for example, while CRA data provide information on extensions of credit in an area, they do not indicate the amount or nature of the overall demand for credit there. Accordingly, conclusions drawn from analyses using only CRA data should be made with caution, as differences in local loan volumes may reflect differences in local demands, among other things.

General Description of the 1997 CRA Data

As shown in table 1, 1,896 lenders reported data on small business and small farm lending in 1997, including 1,421 commercial banks and 475 savings associations. Most of the reporting institutions (75 percent) had assets under $1 billion, including 22 percent that had assets under $250 million (derived from table 3). (As indicated above, independent institutions with assets under $250 million are not required to report these data.) Compared with 1996 (the first year the data were reported), the number of reporters is down about 10 percent.

A total of 2,560,795 small business loans, totaling $159 billion, and 212,822 small farm loans, totaling $11.2 billion, were reported for 1997. Reported loans include both originations during 1997 and purchases of loans during the year. Unlike mortgage lending, a well-developed secondary market for small business loans does not exist, and the CRA data reflect this. 2 Most reported small business and small farm loans were originations; only about 2 percent of small business loans and less than 1 percent of small farm loans were reported as purchases from another institution (derived from table 2).

The CRA data provide information about the size of small business and small farm loans. In the case of small business loans, the maximum loan size reported is $1 million; for small farm loans the maximum is $500,000. The average small business loan was for about $62,000, and the average small farm loan was for about $53,000 (derived from table 2). Measured by number of loans, 87 percent of the small business loans and 86 percent of the small farm loans were for amounts under $100,000 (table 2). Measured by dollars the distribution differs: only 29 percent of the small business loans and 42 percent of the small farm loans fell in the under-$100,000 loan size category.

The CRA data also include information on how many of the reported loans were extended to borrowers having gross annual revenues of $1 million or less. Such borrowers fall within generally accepted definitions of a small business, although many somewhat larger borrowers also are often categorized as being a small business or small farm. For 1997, 50 percent of the reported small business loans and 90 percent of the small farm loans (measured by number of loans) were extended to borrowers having revenues of $1 million or less. The data show that, on average, loans to borrowers having revenues under $1 million are smaller than loans to larger borrowers. For example, the average small business loan to these small borrowers is about $52,000, while the average loan amount to larger borrowers is $72,000 (derived from table 2).

The vast majority of the reported loans (about 97 percent measured by number of loans) were either originated or purchased by commercial banks (data not shown in tables). This preponderance of commercial banks in small business lending is consistent with data provided by other sources, including the 1987 and 1993 National Surveys of Small Business Finances, which show that commercial banks are the preponderant source of credit for small businesses.3

Although a minority in number, larger commercial banks and savings associations (those with assets of $1 billion or more) originated or purchased about three-quarters of the small business loans (table 3). No significant differences between commercial banks and savings associations were observed in this regard, as larger institutions did the majority of small business lending within their institutional categories. The overall pattern differs for small farm loans, where larger institutions accounted for about half of the loans.

The Geographic Distribution of Small Business and Small Farm Lending

The availability of information about the geographic location of businesses and farms receiving credit provides an opportunity to examine the distribution of small business and small farm lending across areas grouped by their socio-demographic and economic characteristics. Because the CRA data do not include the lending of all commercial banks and savings associations, the data do not fully represent all small business and small farm lending by these types of institutions. Nonetheless, reporting institutions account for a significant portion of small business lending. CRA performance assessments generally include an analysis of the distribution of small business and small farms loans (of all types) across census tracts grouped into four neighborhood income categories: low, moderate, middle, and upper income. 4 Overall, the distribution of the number and the dollar amounts of small business loans across these categories parallels the distribution of population and businesses across these four income groups (tables 4.1 and 4.2). For example, low-income areas include about 4.9 percent of the population and 5.6 percent of the businesses and received 4.6 percent of the number and 5.4 percent of the total dollar amount of originated small business loans. Some differences are observed in areas with higher incomes, but the total amount of lending to middle- and upper-income neighborhoods nearly equals their share of the population. These relationships mirror those observed in the 1996 data.

Small business loans are heavily concentrated in central city and suburban areas (about 81 percent of all small business loans), as are the bulk of the U.S. population and businesses. In contrast, most small farm loans are in rural areas (about 70 percent, tables 4.3 and 4.4). In lower-income areas, most small business loans occur in central city census tracts; in higher-income areas, more small business loans are in suburban areas. This income-urbanization pattern is not generally observed for small farm loans, however. Most small farm loans are made in rural areas regardless of income.

Community Development Lending

In addition to information about small business and small farm lending, institutions covered by the CRA data reporting requirements also disclose the number and dollar amount of their community development lending. For 1997, 24,913 community development loans totaling $18.6 billion were reported (table 5). On average, community development loans are larger ($745,000) than the typical small business loan ($62,000) reported in the CRA data. Large lenders extended the bulk of community development loans measured by dollars, rather than by the number of loans (table 5).

A community development loan has as its primary purpose affordable housing for low- or moderate-income individuals, community services targeted to these individuals, activities that promote economic development by financing small businesses and small farms, and activities that revitalize or stabilize low- or moderate-income geographies. In general, a community development loan has not been reported for CRA purposes as a consumer, home-mortgage, small business, or small farm loan (except for a multifamily dwelling loan reported under HMDA).


1. In general, the regulations that implement the CRA specify three performance tests for institutions: a lending test, an investment test, and a service test.

2. The one exception is for small business loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. See "Report to the Congress on Markets for Small Business and Commercial Mortgage Related Securities," Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (September 1996).

3. See Rebel A. Cole, John D. Wolken, and R. Louise Woodburn, "Bank and Nonbank Competition for Small Business Credit: Evidence from the 1987 and 1993 National Surveys of Small Business Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin (November 1996), vol. 82. no. 11, pp. 983-995.

4. In general, for purposes of the regulations, a low-income census tract has a median family income less than 50 percent of the median family income of the surrounding metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or, if the census tract is located outside an MSA, the nonmetropolitan portions of the state; a moderate income tract, 50 percent to less than 80 percent; a middle income tract, 80 percent to less than 120 percent; and an upper income tract, 120 percent or more.

5. Data on the share of businesses across neighborhood income categories is derived from information provided by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and pertains to the distribution of businesses in 1997 (the most current information available).