Discrimination Does Not Exist at Credit Unions
In her column of Feb. 13 on CRA, Sarah Cooke made an assertion that I think many in our industry would find troubling. In discussing the industry's Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data and addressing the disparity between white and minority loan approval rates, she noted that the data show that a greater percentage of white applicants are approved than minority applicants. While correctly suggesting that some demographic and field-of-membership factors are at play, she unfortunately concluded with an unsubstantiated statement that "part of the difference is plain old discrimination."
Discrimination is a serious accusation to level at any group, but particularly the credit union industry. Nowhere in her column does she cite a study or finding to support this charge. I think most in the credit union community, many of whom have aggressively reached out to underserved areas, would find such a statement disconcerting, to say the least.
While the HMDA data give us a good yardstick for measuring progress in the mortgage-lending arena, the data do have their limitations. Besides race and income, a host of other variables should be considered in comparing approval rates, not the least of which are credit scores, net worth, employment history, as well as a credit union's field of membership.
Ms. Cooke should also look at the many programs that credit unions have implemented to address the needs of the underserved, including financial literacy, credit counseling, community outreach and bilingual services, as well as the industry's active lobbying to expand check-cashing services and to encourage savings.
If there is indeed discrimination, I would like to know about it so we can take steps to end it. But to make blanket statements without specific evidence is to tarnish our industry's superb record of service to members, regardless of income, race, color, creed or national origin.
Fred R. Becker Jr.
President and CEO
National Association of Federal Credit Unions