Alice Fabre: alice.fabre[at]univ-amu.fr
To examine the impact of expanding access to no-frills formal savings accounts, we set up three randomized evaluations in Malawi, Uganda, and Chile. 10%, 17%, and 3% of individuals in each country, respectively, made five or more deposits in the account over the two years that followed. For those users, the average amount deposited was $647, $528, and $1858, respectively. Was usage among this subset of users large enough to generate treatment effects? Using three rounds of follow-up surveys in Malawi and Uganda, we document an average treatment effect on total savings of about 10% of baseline savings, and no statistically significant effect on any downstream outcomes. Our results suggest that policies merely focused on expanding access to no-frills accounts are unlikely to improve welfare noticeably since any impact created on average, even if present, is likely small and diffuse through many channels.