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Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda

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  • Karlan, Dean S.
  • Ratan, Aishwarya
  • Zinman, Jonathan

Abstract

The poor can and do save, but often use formal or informal instruments that have high risk, high cost, and sub-optimal design. This could lead to undersaving compared to a world without market or behavioral frictions. Undersaving has important welfare consequences: variable consumption, low resilience to shocks, and foregone profitable investments. We lay out five sets of constraints that may hinder the adoption and effective usage of savings products and services by the poor: transaction costs, lack of trust and regulatory barriers, information and knowledge gaps, social constraints and behavioral biases. We discuss each in theory, and then summarize related empirical evidence, with a focus on recent field experiments. We then put forward key open areas for research and practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Karlan, Dean S. & Ratan, Aishwarya & Zinman, Jonathan, 2013. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda," Center Discussion Papers 153267, Yale University, Economic Growth Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:yaleeg:153267
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.153267
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumer/Household Economics; Financial Economics; International Development; Labor and Human Capital;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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