Week of April 11, 2016

1. Our Algorithmic Overlords: How will digital financial services, and the data that flows from them, affect our daily lives? It depends. Big data, combined with the low marginal cost of extending digital services can be used to dramatically expand access to quality financial services. But they can also be used to discriminate against the poor, empower dictators, punish political enemies and limit economic mobility. In other words, algorithms and the people that write them matter.

2. Digital Trust: Obviously a key factor in the reach of mobile money is trust. IMTFI has a new synthesis of studies examining how trust in mobile money systems is built or squandered, while the Helix Institute has thoughts on trends in mobile money fraud (the most prevalent and serious of which involve people with access to the algorithms) IMTFI and Helix Institute

3. Remittances: Rebecca Rouse and Caitlin Sanford have thoughts on what the recent Mexican financial diaries reveal on the role that remittances play in the finances of receiving households. Hints: the money isn't regular, isn't squandered and isn't invested. MIF

4. Regulation: New evidence on the effects of regulation in two very different contexts. First, regulation that reins in debt collection practices doesn't seem to have much effect on credit availability (in the US) and deregulation of the financial services industry contributed to growing income inequality in Japan and the UK (and other countries). CRL and VoxEu

5. Tax Time: It's tax day in the US (sort of) so I'm obligated to point to some work on tax refunds and household finance. Here's some detail on tax refunds in the US Financial Diaries. And here's some work from the JPMorgan Chase Institute showing that tax payments and refunds play a bigger role in household finances than gaining, losing, or switching jobs or getting a raise.


Bonus Updates: Senator Elizabeth Warren has a new report on how lobbying by tax preparation firms has stopped efforts to simplify the filing process. Berk Ozler writes about his discomfort with my cellphone/altruism experiment. NerdWallet weighs in on the debt vs. savings question.

The more things change...well, maybe they don't change that much. Hat Tip to Barbara Magnoni.


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