Bank runs occur because banking institutions in the United States are only required to hold a fraction of their depositors' money in reserve. This practice is called fractional-reserve banking. As a result, most banks invest the majority of their depositors' money. On rare occasion, too many of the bank's customers will withdraw their savings and the bank will need help from another institution to continue operating. Bank runs can lead to a multitude of social and economic problems. The Federal Reserve was designed as an attempt to prevent or minimize the occurrence of bank runs, and possibly act as a lender of last resort if a bank run does occur. Many economists, following Milton Friedman, believe that the Federal Reserve inappropriately refused to lend money to small banks during the bank runs of 1929 1.
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