Finance Specialization

Half the world is 'unbanked,' says new Financial Access Initiative paper

Half the world is 'unbanked,' says new Financial Access Initiative paper

The Financial Access Initiative (FAI), a research consortium based at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, has identified that 2.5 billion adults worldwide do not have a savings or credit account with either a traditional (regulated bank) or alternative financial institution (such as a microfinance institution). Nearly 90% of the financially un-served live in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. FAI published the findings in a November, 2009, paper, "Half the World is Unbanked" (click below to access it).

"Until now, the margin of error when considering the world's unbanked was about plus or minus a billion-unacceptable in any other field," said Jonathan Morduch, professor of economics and policy at NYU Wagner, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative, and author of Portfolios of the Poor, a new book examining the surprisingly sophisticated financial lives of the world's poor. "These findings are a real step ahead, and they show how better data can help policymakers truly target and serve poor populations with appropriate financial services."

The analysis also revealed new insights; for example, that India, a country with low per capita income and a large rural population, demonstrates much greater use of financial services than many relatively richer and more urban countries. The global data indicate that countries can improve levels of financial inclusion by creating effective policy and regulatory environments and enabling the actions of individual financial service providers. More than 800 million of those using financial services live on less than $5 per day, so it is possible to provide these services to very low-income communities-but there are still nearly 2 billion to reach.

The Financial Access Initiative (FAI) is a consortium of leading development economists focused on substantially expanding access to quality financial services for low-income individuals, offering the next generation of thinking about microfinance. FAI is housed at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and led by managing director Jonathan Morduch and directors Dean Karlan (Yale University) and Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard University). FAI focuses on basic research and measurement tools that reveal the most effective means of implementing microfinance initiatives. FAI studies the value of microfinance by identifying the demand for financial services; the impact of financial access on incomes, businesses, and broader aspects of well-being; and mechanisms that can increase impact and scale of microfinance.




Subscribe to Finance Specialization