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Banking the Unbanked? Evidence from Three Countries

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  • Pascaline Dupas
  • Dean Karlan
  • Jonathan Robinson
  • Diego Ubfal

Abstract

We experimentally test the impact of expanding access to basic bank accounts in Uganda, Malawi, and Chile. Over two years, 17, 10, and 3 percent of treatment individuals made five or more deposits, respectively. Average monthly deposits in treatment accounts were sizable among users, corresponding to the seventy-ninth, ninety-first, and ninety-sixth percentiles of baseline savings. Survey data show no discernible intention-to-treat effects on savings or any downstream outcomes, though we cannot reject large effect sizes for active users. Results suggest that policies merely focused on expanding access to basic accounts are unlikely to improve welfare noticeably on average.

Suggested Citation

  • Pascaline Dupas & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Robinson & Diego Ubfal, 2018. "Banking the Unbanked? Evidence from Three Countries," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 257-297, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:10:y:2018:i:2:p:257-97
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.20160597
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael Callen & Suresh de Mel & Craig McIntosh & Christopher Woodruff, 2019. "What Are the Headwaters of Formal Savings? Experimental Evidence from Sri Lanka," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(6), pages 2491-2529.
    2. Prina, Silvia, 2015. "Banking the poor via savings accounts: Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 16-31.
    3. Shawn Cole & Thomas Sampson & Bilal Zia, 2011. "Prices or Knowledge? What Drives Demand for Financial Services in Emerging Markets?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(6), pages 1933-1967, December.
    4. Vincent Somville & Lore Vandewalle, 2018. "Saving by Default: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 39-66, July.
    5. Dean Karlan & Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(1), pages 36-78, March.
    6. Dean Karlan & Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(1), pages 36-78, March.
    7. Ashraf Nava & Karlan Dean & Yin Wesley, 2006. "Deposit Collectors," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-24, March.
    8. Felipe Kast & Dina Pomeranz, 2013. "Saving More to Borrow Less: Experimental Evidence from Access to Formal Savings Accounts in Chile," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-001, Harvard Business School, revised Jun 2014.
    9. Pascaline Dupas & Sarah Green & Anthony Keats & Jonathan Robinson, 2014. "Challenges in Banking the Rural Poor: Evidence from Kenya's Western Province," NBER Chapters, in: African Successes, Volume III: Modernization and Development, pages 63-101, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Pascaline Dupas & Anthony Keats & Jonathan Robinson, 2019. "The Effect of Savings Accounts on Interpersonal Financial Relationships: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Kenya," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 129(617), pages 273-310.
    11. Simone Schaner, 2018. "The Persistent Power of Behavioral Change: Long-Run Impacts of Temporary Savings Subsidies for the Poor," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 67-100, July.
    12. Demirguc-Kunt,Asli & Klapper,Leora & Singer,Dorothe & Van Oudheusden,Peter, 2015. "The Global Findex Database 2014 : measuring financial inclusion around the world," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7255, The World Bank.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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