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Fair Lending: Race and Gender Data Are Limited for Nonmortgage Lending

GAO-08-1023T Published: Jul 17, 2008. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 2008.
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The Federal Reserve Board's (FRB) Regulation B, which implements the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 (ECOA), generally prohibits lenders from collecting certain data from loan applicants, such as their race or gender, for nonmortgage loans (e.g., small business loans). FRB has stated that this provision of Regulation B minimizes the chances that lenders would use such data in an unlawful and discriminatory manner. However, others argue that the prohibition limits the capacity of researchers and regulators to identify possible discrimination in nonmortgage lending. This testimony is based on the GAO report, Fair Lending: Race and Gender Data Are Limited for Nonmortgage Lending (GAO-08-698, June 27, 2008). Specifically, GAO analyzes (1) studies on possible discrimination in nonmortgage lending and the data used in them, (2) FRB's 2003 decision to retain the prohibition of voluntary data collection, and (3) the benefits and costs of a data collection and reporting requirement. For this work, GAO conducted a literature review; reviewed FRB documents; analyzed issues involving the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), which requires lenders to collect and publicly report data on personal characteristics for mortgage loan applicants; and interviewed FRB and others. FRB did not take a position on this report's analysis. In addition to restating its rationale for retaining the prohibition of voluntary data collection, FRB summarized GAO's findings, including the potential benefits and costs of additional data for fair lending enforcement.

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