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Measuring Financial Inclusion: Explaining Variation in Use of Financial Services across and within Countries

From: Brookings Papers on Economic Activity
Spring 2013
pp. 279-340 | 10.1353/eca.2013.0002



This paper summarizes the first publicly available, user-side data set of indicators that measure how adults in 148 countries save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk. We use the data to benchmark financial inclusion—the share of the population that uses formal financial services—in countries around the world, and to investigate the significant country- and individual-level variation in how adults use formal and informal financial systems to manage their day-to-day finances and plan for the future. The data show that 50 percent of adults worldwide are "banked," that is, have an account at a formal financial institution, but also that account penetration varies across countries by level of economic development and across income groups within countries. For the half of all adults around the world who remain unbanked, the paper documents reported barriers to account use, such as cost, distance, and documentation requirements, which may shed light on potential market failures and provide guidance to policymakers in shaping financial inclusion policies.

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