Viewing all posts with tag: Data  

2014 Global Findex: Is the Glass Half Full?

The 2014 Global Findex data has been a hot topic of conversation around the FAI offices since its release last month.  While there is a lot to dissect in the 97-page report, the biggest headline is the 20% decrease in the number of unbanked worldwide  - approximately 700 million people worldwide. 

However, there are concerns that this number is overstated and the data leave us with outstanding questions as to why certain trends occur over the last 4 years.  One reason is we do not yet have access to the microdata.  When we can only use broad strokes to tell a nuanced story, many of the finer points are lost, like regional differences in financial inclusion changes. 

Another example is the data around gender . . . 

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Hidden from View: Mobile Money and the Policy Agenda

The past few weeks have seen plenty of ruminations about Uber’s potential invasions of privacy and the amount of data Google collects from its users. The concern is that these companies could use this data for nefarious purposes (although your definition of nefarious may vary). An Uber executive, for instance, suggested that the company could “dig up dirt” on journalists who wrote negative stories and hinted that they’ve already tracked the movements of at least a few reporters to date.

Felix Salmon writes that this is only the beginning of a wave of privacy scandals. What I found most remarkable in the various columns, threads, and postings is that I didn’t see a single mention of credit card companies or other financial institutions . . . 

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The Hidden Financial Lives of Working Americans

Today researchers and national experts will share early findings from the U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD) project, which tracked every dollar earned, spent, borrowed, saved, and shared by 235 low- and moderate-income households in five states over the course of a year—thus providing a powerful picture of how millions of Americans work to make ends meet.  At the event, you will have first access to USFD findings. . . 

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USFD Project Releases New Report on Informal Finance

People run their financial lives with a variety of tools. The first tools that come to mind are likely to be formal, like checking accounts and credit cards. But households often use informal tools that are harder to see from outside, like short-term loans from friends or relatives. Some people use informal financial services because they lack access—or believe they lack access—to quality products or because they do not trust formal options. It’s tempting to think that these informal tools are last resorts, or second-best solutions, but informal financial mechanisms are often combined with formal tools, and sometimes are preferred . . . 

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New Remittance Data, Ripe for Analysis

A collaboration between the Gates Foundation and the Gallup World Poll has gathered new data on remittances for a broad set of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia, home to many growing markets for mobile banking and money transfers. 

Collected jointly with the Global Findex data, the new data include answers to questions such as: 

  • “Have you personally brought money in person or sent money to a family member or friend living in a different city or area in [your country of residence] in the last 30 days?”
  • “Have you personally brought money in person or sent money to a family member or friend living in a different country in the last 30 days?”
  • “Including any charges you may have incurred, was the largest amount of money you personally brought in person or sent to a family member or friend living in a different country in the last 30 days?”
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A Milestone in the Great Debate over a Microcredit Impact Study

This summer the Journal of Development Studies accepted a manuscript by Jonathan Morduch and myself laying out our critique of an influential microcredit study from the 1990s by Mark Pitt of Brown University and Shahidur Khandker of the World Bank. Our article should appear in the journal this year or next. The acceptance is milestone for Jonathan and me, for it represents a ratification of our work, and is very long in coming.

It was 15 years ago that Jonathan first laid out his doubts about Pitt and Khandker (P&K). Pitt retorted the next year. And there the dispute rested, never adjudicated by journals, until I entered the picture 6 years ago by writing a program that, for the first time, allowed an exact replication of P&K’s math.

Jonathan and I have played a sort of doubles match with Mark and Shahid . . . 

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The Other Half of the Benefit-Cost Debate

When it comes to costs and benefits, we at FAI tend to focus on benefits. The recent release of the Compartamos microfinance impact evaluation was thus a big event in our office. With our heads in the academic literature, we tend to write a lot about RCTs and other ways to measure benefits of interventions.

We’re contributing to a problem, though. There’s a big danger in conflating impact and value. We can’t say much about  the value of microfinance (or any other intervention) based on benefits alone. The most realistic proposition in favor of microfinance is that relatively small benefits are paired with relatively small costs, leading to a favorable cost-benefit ratio. That’s a hypothesis, of course, and it hinges on a careful reckoning of the cost data.

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Reliability of Self-Reported Data - Diaries and Alternative Methodologies

In last week’s blog post, I suggested that self-reported data should be supplemented with objective sources of information from independent third-party entities. Sometimes, however, independent data sources simply aren’t available and researchers have no choice but to base their analysis on self-reported data. Under these circumstances, some data collection methodologies might be more useful than others in ensuring that self-reported data are reliable. In this post, I discuss several studies of the potential of the diaries methodology and alternative strategies to capture accurate self-reported data.

Klaus Deininger, Calogero Carletto, Sara Savastano and James Muwonge examine the effect of personal diaries on the quality of self-reported agricultural data in their study, “Can Diaries Help in Improving Agricultural Production Statistics? Evidence from Uganda.” In Uganda, a large part of crop output consists of continually harvested crops such as cassava and banana. Since these crops are harvested over long periods of time, farmers who are asked to report harvest data may have trouble recalling events that happened several months earlier . . . 

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Reliability of Self-Reported Data: Deliberate Misreporting

Program evaluations and policy proposals are only as good as the data upon which they are based. Although we all know this to be true, discussions about the reliability of data, especially self-reported data, have only recently emerged in the field of development economics. The other week, I highlighted two papers from the Journal of Development Economics’ Symposium on Measurement and Survey Design which discussed how recall bias might undermine the reliability of self-reported data. Even when recall bias is not at play though, self-reported data might be threatened by respondents’ desire to misreport their activities so as to portray their behaviors in a more positive light.

Sarah Baird and Berk Özler explore this phenomenon as it relates to education in their study, “Examining the Reliability of Self-Reported Data on School Participation.” Many Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs are evaluated based on self-reported data about school enrollment and attendance rates. However, the desire to give socially desirable answers or the belief that program funding is linked to evaluation results might lead survey participants to over-report their level of school participation. Baird and Özler test the extent to which self-reported data of school enrollment rates can be considered reliable in CCT evaluations of this nature . . . 

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Measuring (and Missing) Financial Inclusion

The fastest growing part of the financial inclusion movement isn’t a product or even a standard, it’s data and measurement. And if there’s something experts are increasingly agreeing on, it’s that it is illusory to try to define financial inclusion in any precise, universal way. John Gitau says he’s confused, and so am I. How do you measure financial inclusion?

It’s true that you might not be able to measure financial inclusion itself, but you can still measure things that indicate either actual, or the potential for, progress. Such indicatorsare what we can measure, and they are very useful as long we don’t confuse them with actual measurement of financial inclusion.

There are two broad types of indicators which can be applied to fuzzy concepts like our cherished financial inclusion . . . 

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Reliability of Self-Reported Data – Recall Bias

In a recent post, Tim Ogden and I discussed the importance of having solid, reliable data on which to base program evaluations and policy decisions. The Journal of Development Economics explored this theme in last year’s Symposium on Measurement and Survey Design which featured more than a dozen papers on improving data quality in development research (Hat tip to Berk Ozler of the World Bank’s Development Impact blog for pointing us to it).

An important discussion at the symposium was the extent to which self-reported data can be considered accurate and reliable. Because study participants are usually asked to report information after significant time has elapsed, self-reported data are often subject to recall bias and can be inaccurate or misleading. This post is the first in a three-part series that will explore the reliability of self-reported data through a discussion of papers featured at the symposium . . . 

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What’s next for KGFS?

What’s next in financial access in 2013? Bindu Ananth and Deepti George say a focus on measuring and improving quality.

It has been over four years since we started KGFS, an attempt to provide a complete suite of financial services to financially excluded low-income households in India. Our journey began in the village of Karambayyam in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. In that village of 3200 households that has no other formal financial institution, the KGFS branch and its three wealth managers have enrolled 2030 households and created a customised financial well-being report for each of them. Following up on these reports has resulted in the sale of 4966 insurance policies, 300 pension policies and credit disbursements of USD 2mn with no losses for this single branch. Mid-line results from an impact evaluation being conducted by Rohini Pande and Erica Field suggest that the presence of a KGFS branch has a significant impact on reducing the stock of informal, expensive debt. Over the last four years, we have built five independently managed KGFS institutions in five  distinct regions of the country. These institutions together comprise a total network of 170 branches and are now serving about 300,000 households. The first of these institutions, with 68 branches in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, turned profitable within four years of inception . . . 

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Bad Data

At FAI, we’re big advocates for data. Why? Because you can’t make good policy without data. Data can be collected in many ways and come in many forms: transaction records, panel surveys, financial diaries, or field experiment results.  We get excited about the opportunity to collect or analyze data about the financial behavior of poor households.

While we often lament the lack of data, it is equally important to remember that quality of data is just as important. Poor quality data leads to decisions just as bad, if not worse, than no data. Two recent posts on data quality are a good reminder of the lingering problem of data quality even where data does exist . . . 

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Banking the World: Empirical Foundations of Financial Inclusion

About 2.5 billion adults, just over half the world’s adult population, lack bank accounts. If we are to realize the goal of extending banking and other financial services to this vast “unbanked” population, we need to consider not only such product innovations as microfinance and mobile banking but also issues of data accuracy, impact assessment, risk mitigation, technology adaptation, financial literacy, and local context. In Banking the World, a new collection of research papers edited by Robert Cull, Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, and Jonathan Morduch, experts take up these topics . . . 

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An Overview of David Roodman's Work Beyond Microfinance

On October 3rd, FAI will host a conversation with Jonathan Morduch and David Roodman, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD). The conversation will focus on Roodman’s new book, Due Diligence, which has been widely praised (but you should also check out some of the critiques) for its detailed, evidence-based look at the state of microfinance today.

Those familiar with Roodman from his work in microfinance may be unaware of his influential work in other areas of development. We thought we’d provide a quick overview to the other sides of David Roodman (though all of the sides feature an exceedingly careful attention to detail and data).

In addition to his work on microfinance for CGD, David also manages the Commitment to Development Index . . . 

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M-PESA Marches On

New data shows M-PESA is now reaching most of the poor, unbanked, and rural populations in Kenya – and measurably improving their lives.

M-PESA is a mobile-phone based electronic payment and store of value system which in just over three years has managed to acquire 57% of the Kenyan adult population as customers, and who between them do more money transfers domestically than Western Union does globally. Though money transfer services and savings accounts are nothing new, M-PESA’s real innovation is that customers can deposit and withdraw cash at any of 20,000 stores – that’s 20 times the number of bank branches in the country!

Many in the field of financial inclusion believe M-PESA has potential as a development tool because it significantly lowers transactions costs for intra-family remittances, commerce, utility bill payments and government welfare transfers and because it has the same functionality as a basic bank account, giving it great potential to expand financial inclusion . . . 

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The Data Question

In early June, I joined several hundred researchers at the First European Research Conference on Microfinance hosted by CERMi.  The three-day conference included presentations on a wide array of subjects including social responsibility, institutional governance and performance, and rural and informal microfinance. 

One striking aspect of the conference was the prolific use of data from the Mix Market.  The Mix Market database contains data on financial performance and outreach indicators for over 1,400 institutions...

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