Visualizing Failed Banks

By Ellie Fields 2009/10/08

Dan Murray of Interworks contacted us with some fascinating visualizations of U.S. bank failures using FDIC data. We've publishing those interactively along with Dan's commentary. Enjoy-- unless you own bank stocks.

Dan Murray:

The Presidents Bush and Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman (Ben Bernanke) have been reporting that the bailout of the big banks was necessary because they were too big to fail. That comment pertains to some of the Peer Group 1 banks like Citibank, Bank of American and Morgan.

US Bank Failrures
US Bank Failrures

Judging by the amount of assets controlled by the big banks it's clear that a failure by any one of them would have a material effect on the liquidity of financial markets.


The peer group analysis clearly highlights the stress financial institutions are under. Bank Peer Groups are used by the FDIC to classify financial institutions by size (amount of assets) and type (commercial bank, savings & loans, etc.).

As you filter through the peer group analysis look at the number of banks that were losing money at the end of the Second Quarter (latest available data).

The Peer 1 banks have been receiving all of the help. The small banks, which aren't too small to fail, are having trouble.

I don't know if the bailout was warranted if the cost of that will be many smaller bank failures, thus creating even larger bank entities which are too big to fail.

Source: FDIC.


Submitted by Richard Michael... (not verified) on

It would be interesting to see the data scaled by state population. After all, it is not that surprising that California has such a large number of banks, but Georgia is very strange. Do they have different banking laws?

Submitted by Dan M. on

I don't think banking laws are that different in Georgia versus California. The bigger factor may be per capital incomes (which are lower in the southeast) and new housing growth (which is high in the southeast). Atlanta in particular has had explosive housing growth in the last 10 years.

Perhaps I'll do additional analysis to identify factors that may explain the differences. I'll post the full visualizations and a packaged workbook on my blog ( The full workbook includes additional views, the map background color legend, and is designed for wide-screen output.

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