J-PAL’s Finance sector measures the impact of financial services, products, and process innovations, and tries to understand how access to financial services can be used as a mechanism to reduce poverty and spur economic development.

Low-income households need effective financial tools to help manage and grow their money. Yet many of the financial services they can access are costly, unsafe, or not well-suited to their needs. To support financial inclusion efforts around the world, the Financial Inclusion Program at IPA partners with service providers, governments, and researchers to design and rigorously test financial services and programs encouraging healthy financial behavior among the poor.

In addition to supporting policymakers in applying evidence from randomized evaluations to their work, sector chairs and staff write policy insights that synthesize general lessons emerging from the research and condense results from evaluations in policy publications and evaluation summaries

A man works at a spice stall
Policy Publication

Winners and Losers: The Benefits and Dangers of Credit

Providing large loans to small businesses in Egypt had no impact on profits for the average borrower, but entrepreneurs predicted in advance to be top performers saw much higher returns than their peers.

Woman making digital financial service transaction
Policy Insight

Digital financial services to improve formalized access and inclusion

Digital financial services have dramatically improved access to formal accounts, especially for marginalized communities. Increased access to digital services has led to a reduction in remittance transaction costs, which has facilitated risk-sharing and alleviated poverty.

Policy Insight

Microcredit: Impacts and promising innovations

Findings on the impacts of microcredit continue to evolve. Early evidence from randomized evaluations in low- and middle-income countries showed that the classic microcredit model did not lead to transformative impacts on income or consumption for the average borrower across many contexts. However...

Introducing irrigation to central Kenya

Encouraging Adoption of Rainwater Harvesting Tanks Through Collateralized Loans in Kenya

In partnership with Nyala Dairy Cooperative, researchers evaluated the impact of offering asset collateralized loans for rainwater harvesting tanks on both credit access for dairy farmers and profitability for the lender. Using the tanks as loan collateral led to higher take-up of loans by farmers...


Flexible Loan Contracts for Microentrepreneurs in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, researchers partnered with BRAC to evaluate the impact of repayment flexibility in loan contracts for microentrepreneurs.  Repayment flexibility benefited traditional microfinance borrowers primarily through the provision of insurance, enabling riskier investments at lower default...

Sector Chairs

Co-Chair, Finance

Frederic E. Abbe Professor of Economics

Harvard University

Sector Contacts

Tyler Spencer

Policy Manager, J-PAL Global