Government-Initiated Public Banks (G-Pub) Data

This dataset aims to support research on what are typically referred to as "public banks". Traditionally, public banks are defined as banks in which a government owns a majority of bank assets. Their utility and performance as compared with private banks is by now well debated and studied: to what extent do they help serve new markets (such as green energy investments or unbanked populations), resolve market failures (such as financial crisis), or create new inefficiencies altogether (such as politically motivated investment)? However, few if any studies offer a systematic analysis of when and why governments pursue their formation in the first place. 

In a paper invited for revisions at the Review of International Political Economy, I advance an alternative conceptualization of public banks that focuses the lens of analysis on the process by which they emerge. That is, I define them as: banks that are formed or taken over by governments and in which governments maintain a degree of control (what I call government-initiated public banks, or "G-Pubs"). I then constructed a novel dataset based on this conceptualization for the purpose of empirical testing.

The supplementary information (SI) for the paper also assembles archival qualitative data pertaining to early, multilingual uses of the term "public banks" or "public banker", based on searches of Google Books (see Section B of the SI).

I intend to make portions of the dataset available in the course of the peer-review publication process. I am sharing a brief description of the data and descriptive summary here to elicit awareness and feedback among other scholars and practitioners. Please contact me with any information important to keeping the dataset consistent and up to date in future versions.

Dataset overview

The G-Pub dataset builds on several existing databases and datasets of public banks, as well as uses qualitative sources. It includes over 1,300 banks, 191 countries, and spans the period 1401-2021. The sample selection was guided by my conceptualization of public banks as: banks formed or taken over by a government in which the government maintains a degree of control through management or ownership. See my working paper (link above) detailing this conceptual framework, including a definition of "government" and corresponding scope conditions.  All banks were verified according to this conceptual framework. The table below summarizes the data sources.

Whereas prior datasets provide national-level measures of government ownership as a percent of the banking sector (La Porta et al. 2002; Barth et al. 2013), or a list of bank names with static institutional measures (e.g. bank size), this dataset adds fields to allow for cross-sectional, firm-level analysis of G-Pub emergence over time. These fields include:

Descriptive summary

The figure below portrays the formation and closure of all G-Pubs in the dataset over time and by region. The plot depicts shading between G-Pub start and end years; darker shading indicates a greater number of banks active at one time. Broadly, it shows the global emergence of G-Pubs as corresponding to state and financial market formation beginning in 15th century Europe, diffusing along with state and market expansion to other regions up through the neoliberal era.