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Household Financial Access


Until recently there has been relatively little effort devoted in household surveys to understanding how household interact with the financial sector: what access they have to basic financial services—for saving, borrowing, making and receiving payments and insurance. 

Growing awareness of the importance of financial access has generated a sense of urgency in a new wave of household surveys on financial access.  These new surveys are carefully constructed to throw light on the most important aspects of household financial access.  This allows the use of econometric methods to answer key policy questions.

Existing surveys
A recent stock-taking exercise has assembled all of the LSMS surveys containing financial access data and created a pooled database.  Working with this pool of data Financial Access dataset have been able to make preliminary estimates of how household usage of formal credit, or of a bank account, is linked to the household’s education, employment status, and level of consumption.  But this exercise also reveals how little is known on a comprehensive basis and confirms the need for new studies. 

In addition to the LSMS surveys, there have been some other surveys of financial usage; though where these may go into more detail on the financial dimensions, they generally contain much less detail on the non-financial dimensions of the surveyed households or individuals. 

Further details on other financial access surveys here.
For a rather comprehensive listing of household surveys, financial and nonfinancial:

A new wave of surveys – methodology
Deciding on what questions to ask in a national or regional survey aimed at uncovering patterns of household access to finance involves balancing comprehensiveness with cost. 


 In some cases, the survey is primarily focused on financial access in which case the questionnaire can be reasonably comprehensive.  An excellent example is the recent survey carried out in Indonesia.

In other cases, the opportunity may be available to add a limited number of questions to a general household survey.  In order for this to be useful, there is a core set of questions that should at least be asked.  The module recently included in a survey in Guatemala exemplifies this core set of questions.

There is a strong argument in favour of surveying on a household basis rather than just asking random individuals. For one thing, individual members of a household may pool much of their financial dealings with the rest of the household and thus have indirect access to finance through the accounts of the head of household or other household members.

Indonesia survey questionnaire
Guatemala survey module questionnaire

A model questionnaire for household financial access
The comprehensive survey on household financial access recently conducted in Indonesia seeks considerable detail from the respondents.  In addition to basic demographic and socio-economic information (including education, religion, occupation/ employment—including through any non-farm enterprises controlled by the household—income and the pattern of expenditure, housing and possession of durables), the respondents are asked about the use of accounts at banks and non-bank formal financial institutions for savings and for loans, including questions about the closeness of bank offices, terms and conditions of loans received; whether loan applications have been rejected and reasons for not using formal intermediaries. Questions are also asked about different types of insurance. A relatively detailed section was included in the Indonesian survey covering migrant workers from the household and how they financed their trips to work abroad as well as how and how much they remitted home. Finally the survey probes financial literacy of the household as well as the degree of risk aversion and time preference, using experimental techniques.

Download the comprehensive Indonesia questionnaire (survey instrument) here.


A basic set of core questions on financial access to be inserted into a general household survey
The survey module for Guatemala exemplifies the basis core minimum information that should be sought from a financial access survey.  It is suitable for adding to household surveys primarily designed for other purposes.  As such it does not need to ask the basic demographic and socio-economic questions.  Indeed, this module asks household members only twelve questions, starting with “do you have a bank account”, and identifying the intermediaries where respondents save, borrow and insure themselves.

Download the basic Guatemala questionnaire module here

Household surveys directly enquiring into all aspects of financial access are not the only way to glean information relevant to household access.  Indeed, there are many other relevant types of information which can be collected in different ways, including specialized surveys conducted in relation to specific products. 

Research using surveys
A growing body of research employs surveys to understand the impact of different dimensions of financial access on household and microenterprise behaviour and wellbeing as well as throwing light on policy for financial intermediaries and governments policy makers.

Much of this work is being carried out at the World Bank’s Finance and Private Sector Research Group.  The Group’s research projects in this area seek to evaluate the impact of interesting policy questions, and use a range of modern evaluation tools such as randomized experiments, difference-in-difference, propensity-score matching and other evaluation designs to answer the questions of interest.

A summary of the World Bank Research Group’s work in this area can be found here
A selection of other key research studies can be found here.

Finance and Private Sector Research Group, World Bank
Recent and Ongoing Financial Access Impact Research
Brief summaries of these projects

Innovations to Induce Greater Use of Formal Financial Services
Financial Literacy and Use of Financial Services

Changes in business inputs
Returns to Capital in Microenterprises
Gender and Microenterprise Returns

Microfinance Contracts and Operation
Testing the Impact of Joint Liability Contracts
What Works in Microfinance Contracts?
The Impact of an Incentive Scheme to Credit Staff

Impact of subsidized exporter credit on firm outcomes
Getting credit to high return microenterprises:
 the results of an information intervention
Constraints to Female Entrepreneurship: Ideas or Capital?

Marketing, Credit and Technology Adoption
Insurance, Credit, and Technology Adoption
Impact of Liquidity Booms in Emerging Markets

Micro-insurance Products
Patterns of Rainfall Insurance Participation in Rural India
Health Insurance Take-up and Market Efficiency

Policy Research Working Papers

For more policy research working papers from the World Bank's institutional archives, search here using author’s last name, title or working paper number (“wpsxxxx”).

WPS5827Financial literacy and retirement planning : the Russian caseKlapper, Leora; Panos, Georgios A.2011/10
WPS5798Unpacking the causal chain of financial literacyCarpena, Fenella; Cole, Shawn; Shapiro, Jeremy; Zia, Bilal2011/09
WPS5427Liability structure in small-scale finance : evidence from a natural experimenCarpena, Fenella; Cole, Shawn; Shapiro, Jeremy; Zia, Bilal2010/09
WPS5048Measuring household usage of financial services : does it matter how or whom You Ask ?Cull, Robert; Scott, Kinnon2009/09
WPS4981The economic impact of banking the unbanked : evidence from MexicoBruhn, Miriam; Love, Inessa2009/06

WPS4661Who gets the credit ? and does it matter ? household vs. firm lending across countriesBeck, Thorsten; Buyukkarabacak, Berrak; Rioja, Felix; Valev, Neven2008/07
WPS4426Statistical analysis of rainfall insurance payouts in southern IndiaGine, Xavier; Townsend, Robert; Vickery, James2007/12
WPS3965Household financial assets in the process of developmentHonohan, Patrick2006/07



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