In the past decade, we have seen the proliferation of research on how financial services can improve the lives of low-income people. While they provided valuable insights, these studies tended to focus on microcredit or a single financial product, such as savings or mobile money. As a result, an overly simplistic and product-focused story has emerged. Recognizing the need for a more nuanced but clearer impact narrative, CGAP is focusing on synthesizing existing evidence, identifying knowledge gaps and articulating a theory of change that proposes the potential pathways through which the use of financial services helps poor people build resilience and seize opportunities.
Whether and how financial services improve the lives of low-income people remains the subject of intense debate despite decades of evidence-gathering. The evidence to date appears mixed and often contradictory. As a result, different factions in the international development community argue strenuously either in favor of, or against, prioritizing the expansion of financial services among the poor. All cite existing evidence. In this blog series, we explore recent efforts to synthesize evidence on the impact of financial inclusion, share our perspective on emerging narratives like financial health, examine how measuring access and use has been necessary but not sufficient for the impact story, discuss whether we are using the right definition and metrics to capture well-being, and discuss CGAP’s current efforts to update the impact narrative.