Drivers of US Bank Failures during the Financial Crisis

  •  Raymond Cox    
  •  Randall Kimmel    
  •  Grace Wang    


Hundreds of banks failed during the financial crisis of 2008 to 2010 causing significant social cost and enfeebling economic growth for years following. In the aftermath of the crisis, regulators responded, as always, with new regulations, the efficacy of which is debatable. For policy makers to enact effective regulation, they must understand the true cause of bank failures during crisis periods. We study the effects of 31 variables using univariate t-tests and probit regression to determine their influence on the probability of bank failure. We find that banks failed during the 2008 to 2010 financial crisis because of choices management made to accept more risk, specifically by having higher financial leverage, investing in higher risk loans in real estate and construction and by holding less liquid assets and fewer low risk loans like single family real estate loans. That is, the cause of US bank failures during the finance crisis was poor management.

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