An Empirical History of the United States Postal Savings System
Seeking to reach the unbanked, the United States Postal Savings System provided a federally insured savings alternative to traditional banks. Using novel datasets on postal deposits, demographic characteristics, and banks, we study how and by whom the System was used. We find the program was initially used by non-farming immigrant populations for short-term saving, then as a safe haven during the Great Depression, and finally as long-term investment for the wealthy during the 1940s. However, even during the earliest period, Postal Savings was only a partial substitute for traditional banks, as locations with banks often still heavily used postal savings.
Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Census Bureau not those of the National Bureau of Economic Research. The research in this paper does not use any confidential Census Bureau data.