Measuring access to finance

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Barr_kumar_litan According to recent reports more than 70 percent of people in Latin America lack access to such basic financial services as a checking or savings account. The percentage of households without a checking account in industrial countries is typically below 20 percent: 12 percent in the U.K., 9 percent in the U.S., and less than 2 percent in Scandinavian countries.

The subject of a new book by Michael Barr, Anjali Kumar and Robert Litan is exactly how to measure access. What units should be used to determine access individuals, households, or firms? What difference does it make whether the supplier of financial services is legally recognized or not?

The authors also study the link between access and poverty reduction, the role of commercial banks and government in improving financial access, and innovation in financial infrastructure (the graph below shows the adoption of: 1. Bank IT; 2. ATM; 3. Electronic funds transfer at point-of-sale (EFT POS); 4. Internet; and 5. Mobile-banking technologies over time).


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