This paper reviews various data sources that have a bearing on microfinance, or access to finance more broadly, and discusses their relevance. Attention is restricted to multiple country sources that achieve some level of comparability of data. But we recognize that most relevant data for a particular country will come from individual country sources.
We do not evaluate the intrinsic merits, methodological rigor, or data reliability of each survey discussed in this paper. Instead, we focus on the kinds of questions these data might be able to inform. Because demographic information on the clients being reached by financial services is important to many readers, we highlight data sources that contain this type of information.
Complete data are never available, and even if they were available, they would be too unwieldy to manage. Therefore, all data ultimately come from a survey of a more or less consistent set of respondents. The surveys are categorized in the first instance by who is being surveyed.
On the demand side, detailed surveys can be conducted of the two primary classes of users of financial services: households and enterprises. More general opinion polls can also be conducted. On the supply side, surveys can be conducted on the various types of entities that provide financial services: banks, microfinance institutions (MFIs), savings banks, postal banks, credit unions, and so forth. To get a handle on the growth perspectives for access to finance, funders of microfinance can be surveyed as to how they allocate their funding and regulators and other policy makers can be asked about the nature of the regulatory and supervisory environment.
Annex A provides summary descriptions of the various surveys we have found, classified by who is being surveyed. Annex B provides the Web links (where available) for further information on each of these surveys.