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Financial Inclusion

Follow-Up: Beyond Our Means

December 14, 2011
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On December 13, 2011 the Asset Building Program hosted Professor Sheldon Garon, author of Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves. While economists often claim people save according to universally rational calculations — saving the most in their middle years as they plan for retirement and saving the least in welfare states — there are substantial differences in savings rates across high income countries. For example, Europeans save at relatively high rates despite generous welfare programs, while Americans save little, despite weaker social safety nets. The assumption that generous social benefits will provide a disincentive to save doesn’t hold up.

A Busy Week In Asset Building News

December 8, 2011
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I have a pet theory that time speeds up after Thanksgiving and slows down again after New Year's Day. Data supporting this theory includes this week, when there's been a tremendous amount of news, releases and interesting developments and not nearly enough time to keep up with it all. The only way to keep up with the increased pace is a list, and, gasp, bullet points:

Inequality continued to be a major theme:

The UN Capital Development Fund explores link between Microfinance and Social Protection

December 8, 2011

Last week, the UN Capital Development Fund hosted a high-level Thinkshop entitled “How can microfinance extend Social Protection in Asian Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs)?” Animating the event was the belief that “private financial arrangements provide the single biggest opportunity, albeit one of the least explored, to extend social protection in developing countries, and especially in Asian LDCs.” Other than being a stellar opportunity to share the groundbreaking work of our Global Savings and Social Protection (GSSP) Initiative and SPINNAKER, the event offered insight into new and potentially revolutionary role that microfinance institutions (MFIs) might play in helping protect the extreme poor through products that kickstart savings as opposed to causing debt.

How are Families Really Doing? Part 3: Economic Mobility

December 7, 2011
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This is the third in a series of interviews with policy experts who participated in an event we hosted on November 22nd, "Poverty, Inequality, Mobility, Oh My," where we explored different ways of assessing how families are doing post-Great Recession and how applying these different approaches to the design of public policies might improve the conditions and opportunities of low-income families.

Mobile money gaining steam, but for what purpose?

December 7, 2011
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In the McKinsey online piece "Mobile money: A game changer for financial inclusion,"  the authors discuss the many successes of Kenya's well-regarded M-pesa, including the remarkable 55 percent increase in access to financial services within the first 3 years of M-pesa's launch. Of course this is good news, but there are other points to consider.

"Expenditure Cascades," Inequality and the Shrinking Middle Class

December 5, 2011

Yesterday Robert Frank published, on Slate, the first in a series of essays adapted from his new book, "The Darwin Economy."

President Calderon Announces Largest 'Banking the Poor' Effort in the World

December 2, 2011
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Yesterday in the Mexican municipality of Batopilas, President Felipe Calderon announced “the largest banking access program in the world that is targeted at the poorest people.” More than 6 million families, all current participants in Mexico’s government public benefit program Oportunidades, would benefit from the Calderon’s efforts, which he explained would help reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.

How are Families Really Doing?

December 1, 2011

Two years after the official end of worst recession since the Great Depression, the economy is recovering but families are not. According to a flurry of new data, poverty and inequality are reaching historic highs and the current of economic mobility is flowing most forcefully down the economic ladder. 

Kenya’s Leaders in the Financial Services and Savings Industry Gather in Nairobi for Joint SPINNAKER-FSD Workshop

December 1, 2011

This post originally appeared on the SPINNAKER Network.

On November 18th in Nairobi, Kenya, the Global Assets Project in partnership with FSD Kenya held a half-day industry workshop to share initial findings from the SPINNAKER Network’s recent landscape study on savings products in the country. Jamie Zimmerman presented on the study’s initial findings to Kenya’s policy makers, practitioners, and financial institution representatives, and facilitated various discussions on salient issues related to 1) access to financial services 2) client uptake of savings products and 3) regulatory hurdles facing institutions seeking to offer savings products to the poor.

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