The welfare impact of expanding access to bank accounts depends on whether accounts crowd out pre-existing financial relationships, or whether private gains from accounts are shared within social networks. In this experiment, we provided free bank accounts to a random subset of 885 households. Across households, we document positive spillovers: treatment households become less reliant on grown children and siblings living outside their village, and become more supportive of neighbors and friends within their village. Within households, we randomized which spouse was offered an account and find no evidence of negative spillovers.
November 10, 2016