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An Empirical History of the US Postal Savings System

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 October 2020

Steven Sprick Schuster*
Department of Economics and Finance, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN37132
Matthew Jaremski
Department of Economics and Finance, Utah State University, Logan, UT84322–3565
Elisabeth Ruth Perlman
Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, Suitland, MD20746


Seeking to reach the unbanked, the US Postal Savings System provided a federally insured savings alternative to traditional banks. Using novel data sets 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 nonfarming immigrant populations for short-term saving, then as a safe haven during the Great Depression, and finally as long-term investments for the wealthy during the 1940s. Postal Savings was only a partial substitute for traditional banks, as locations with banks often still heavily used Postal Savings.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Social Science History Association

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