For over 20 years lenders have been prohibited from gathering information about the race, religion, ethnicity, or gender of their loan applicants - except in the case of mortgage lending, where the data must be collected and reported for government monitoring purposes. The Federal Reserve Board has now issued a proposal to drop that prohibition.

The change would have consequences that were not intended. And the cost -particularly to banks and others who are trying to increase minority access to credit - would far exceed any benefit.

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