Who uses formal financial services? What policies are associated with greater use of accounts among the poor and rural residents? And why do certain segments of the population remain unbanked? Is it by choice or is it due to barriers such as high costs or large distances to the nearest bank branch? In a new paper we co-authored with Franklin Allen and Sole Martinez Peria, we explore these questions using an exciting new micro-dataset from the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) database. This dataset, based on interviews with over 150,000 adults in 148 countries, lets us identify account ownership, the use of an account to save, and whether an account is used frequently, defined as three of more withdrawals per month. (For a detailed description of the data, see our earlier paper, Demirguc-Kunt and Klapper, 2012). Figure 1 shows summary statistics of our financial inclusion measures.
Bank regulation and supervision has become subject of vigorous debates during the global financial crisis. Many observers pointed out weaknesses in regulation and supervision in the run-up to the crisis (see, for example, Caprio, Demirguc-Kunt and Kane, 2010, Dan 2010, Levine 2010, and Barth, Caprio, and Levine 2012). The crisis prompted policymakers to consider changes in regulation and supervision. But much of the policy discussions focused on a small number of major (and mostly high-income) economies. And despite the high degree of interest in the global regulatory framework, there has been a surprising lack of consistent and up-to-date information on the national regulatory and supervisory approaches pursued in individual countries around the world during the crisis. This lack of information led to important gaps in understanding what works in regulation and supervision and what does not.
Distance to financial services has long been a constraint for financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region characterized by an especially high proportion of rural dwellers. Suggestive evidence for the role played by geographic isolation in financial exclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa is provided by the new Global Findex database, which finds that rates of formal financial inclusion are considerably lower in rural areas (see Figure 1).1
This week, the BBC and the International Rescue Committee blog both featured a project that I am evaluating together with coauthors Maddalena Honorati and Pamela Jakiela. IRC approached us because they were interested in conducting a rigorous impact evaluation of their project.
Here are a few of the things IRC has to say about its project:
"NAIROBI, Kenya —
In many ways, 19-year-old Susan Kayongo is a typical Kenyan teenager. Brought up by her grandmother in Eastleigh, one of Nairobi’s poorest neighborhoods, she did well in primary school but could not afford to continue her education. Her future looked bleak, like so many young women in her country with little education and work...
Susan partnered with nine other teenagers like herself to open the Downtown Salon. Located in a repurposed freight container left behind in the inner city, the parlor is surprisingly inviting, its white walls decorated with bright posters of trendy cuts. The women sell beauty products and hair extensions as well as style hair."
This week’s FPD Chief Economist Talk featured Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and co-founder of Ideas42, a non-profit that uses insights from behavioral economics to inform the design of products, innovations and policies. Sendhil is well known as one of the leading thinkers in behavioral economics and much of his research has focused on topics at the intersection of psychology and development economics, ranging from corruption in the allocation of drivers’ licenses to the role of psychology in the take-up of micro-finance and consumer loans — all very important issues that matter for what we do at the Bank and so Sendhil’s talk provided great food for thought!
What would the United States look like without a financial industry? This question is the starting point of my recent paper, “Should Wall-Street Be Occupied? An Overlooked Price Externality of Financial Intermediation.” At first glance, the recent crisis suggests a grim answer to this question. As financial activity collapsed, the real economy halted. Lack of financing was associated with record-level unemployment, low investment, and overall reduction in economic activity.
Much of the thinking about the social value of finance has been framed in these terms: we know that finance is important because it performs many socially useful roles, and when financing “dries up,” the economy suffers. However, this logic is somewhat flawed, because the consequences of a shock to financing may be different from a permanent reduction in financing. Equating the two is similar to equating the mental state of someone who just got divorced with the mental state of someone who is single: disappearance is very different from absence, because presence creates dependence. Once you have a spouse, you become emotionally attached, as well as financially and logistically dependent. Once that spouse leaves, it may be difficult to re-adjust.
After finding that gifts of capital had no impact on the growth of female-owned subsistence firms in Sri Lanka and Ghana, in a recent paper (with Chris Woodruff and Suresh de Mel) I test whether business training can help poor women in Sri Lanka start and grow their businesses. A new 2-page impact note summarizes the results of the full paper. The even shorter version is that the ILO’s Start and Improve Your Business Training:
- has no significant impact on the survival or growth of existing subsistence enterprises run by women in either the short or the medium run.
- Speeds up entry into business of women out of the labor force who would like to start businesses, although the control group catches up after a year.
- Leads to less analytically skilled women starting new businesses.
- Makes the new businesses started by women more profitable
A recession is a difficult time to start a business. Credit is tight, consumers are wary, and the future appears uncertain. It seems logical that entrepreneurs would have been deterred from starting a new business during the 2008-09 global financial crisis, but how widespread was this phenomenon, and are there signs that new firm creation has begun to recover? The 2012 Entrepreneurship Database released today provides a novel look at these trends.
The Eurozone crisis has gone through its fair share of buzz words — fiscal compact, growth compact, Big Bazooka. The latest kid on the block is the banking union. Although it has been discussed by economists since even before the 2007 crisis, it has moved up to the top of the Eurozone agenda. But what kind of banking union? For whom? Financed how? And managed by whom?
A new collection of short essays by leading economists on both sides of the Atlantic — including Josh Aizenman, Franklin Allen, Viral Acharya, Luis Garicano, and Charles Goodhart — takes a closer look at the concept of a banking union for Europe, including the macroeconomic perspective in the context of the current crisis, institutional details, and political economy. The authors do not necessarily agree and point to lots of tradeoffs. However, several consistent messages come out of this collection:
In September 2008, the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank precipitated a financial crisis and a sharp decline in international credit. Massive layoffs and an economic recession in the U.S. and many industrialized and developing countries ensued. In some countries, however, the effects of the financial crisis were limited and short-lived. This was true for Brazil and China, both of which continued to experience high rates of economic growth in subsequent years. A cited reason for these countries’ relative success during this period has been government involvement in the banking sector 1.