Over 40 percent of the adult population in developing countries holds an account with a formal financial institution today. But as recent loan repayment crises and low savings rates around the world demonstrate, improved access to financial products and services is only part of the formula for financial inclusion. Access alone is not sufficient to promote healthy financial behaviors.

The Financial Capability Initiative identifies, develops, and rigorously evaluates products and programs that aim to improve the welfare of the poor by building their financial capability, a key ingredient for achieving full financial inclusion. We focus on testing innovations that are informed by behavioral insights, are cost-effective, and present a promising business case for scale-up. We also promote evidence-based policy and product design by sharing our research insights with financial service providers and policymakers through our events and publications.

The Initiative team oversees a portfolio of randomized evaluations that explore the impact of innovatively designed and delivered financial education programs, as well as financial products that make it easier for consumers to make welfare-enhancing financial decisions. In addition, we support small-scale pilots to develop nascent products and programs into mature interventions that are ready to be evaluated. New evaluations and pilots are selected for funding through periodic open calls for proposals and through Initiative-run training and matchmaking programs that connect practitioners with researchers.


Through a field experiment in Afghanistan, we show that default enrollment in payroll deductions increases rates of savings by 40 percentage points, and that this increase is driven by present-biased preferences. Working with Afghanistan’s primary mobile phone operator, we designed and deployed a new mobile phone-based automatic payroll deduction system. Each of 967 employees at the country’s largest firm was randomly assigned a default contribution rate (either 0% or 5%) as well as a matching incentive rate (0%, 25%, or 50%). We find that employees initially assigned a default contribution rate of 5% are 40 percentage points more likely to contribute to the account 6 months later than individuals assigned to a default contribution rate of zero; to achieve this effect through financial incentives alone would require a 50% match from the employer. We also find evidence of habit formation: default enrollment increases the likelihood that employees continue to save after the trial ended, and increases employees’ self-reported interest in saving and sense of financial security. To understand why default enrollment increases participation, we conducted several interventions designed to induce employees to make a non-default election, and separately measured employee time preferences. Ruling out several competing explanations, we find evidence that the default effect is driven largely by present-biased preferences that cause the employee to procrastinate in making a non-default election.


On May 16th in Bogota, IPA and Asobancaria (with support from the Citi Foundation) co-hosted a workshop for 40 high- and mid-level policymakers and financi

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Pia Roman Tayag initiates the roundtable discussion on Information Design

On July 6th in Manila, IPA and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (with support from the Citi Foundation) co-hosted a workshop for 40 high- and mid-level policymakers

Supported By​


Related content