Half of Adults Worldwide Report Having a Formal Bank Account

Half of Adults Worldwide Report Having a Formal Bank Account

by Leora Klapper and Krista Hoff

Access in developing countries half of higher income countries

This article is the first in a three-part series on global financial inclusion based on data collected for the new World Bank Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) database.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty percent of adults worldwide report having a bank account at a formal financial institution, according to a new study by Gallup and the World Bank. An average of 89% of adults in high-income countries -- those countries classified by the World Bank with a GDP of $12,276 or more -- say they have an account, compared with a much lower average of 41% in developing economies. Those who do not have an account are most likely to cite not having enough money as the reason they do not have one.

Adults Worldwide With a Bank Account

These results come from a new global study of financial inclusion, which measures how adults in 148 economies save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk. The findings reflect more than 150,000 interviews with adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2011. Gallup collected the data for the new World Bank Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) database, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Account penetration -- defined as having an account at a bank, credit union, a cooperative, post office, or microfinance institution -- varies greatly by country and region. Penetration is nearly universal in several European countries, such as such as Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden, where virtually all adults report having an account. The opposite is true in several African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Niger, where 4% or less of the adult population has a formal account. Regionally, account penetration is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (24%) and the Middle East and North Africa (18%).

GDP and the measure of relative wealth within a country largely explain these regional disparities. In high-income countries, there is little difference in account ownership between the rich -- those whose household earnings are in the top income quintile of a country -- and the poor -- those whose earnings are in the bottom income quintile. In East Asia and the Pacific region and the Latin America and Caribbean region, where income disparities are high and development may be concentrated in particular areas, the rich are, on average, more than three times as likely to have a formal account as the poor within a country.

has an account at a formal financial institution

Urban-rural divides and gender also further explain disparities in account penetration. Globally, 60% of those living in urban areas have a formal bank account, compared with 44% of those living in rural areas. Differences by gender are also significant -- 55% of men have an account, compared with 47% of women. The gender gap is at least 10 percentage points or higher in South Asia (16 points), the Middle East and North Africa (10 points), and Europe and Central Asia (10 points).

has an account at a formal financial institution

Lack of Money, Costs Chief Barriers to Having an Account

Worldwide, nearly two-thirds of adults who do not have an account cite the lack of having enough money as the main reason they do not have one, but approximately 30% of adults also blame the cost of opening and maintaining an account or the banks being too far away. Obstacles to having an account vary regionally. Compared with those who do not have accounts in other regions, after not having enough money to have an account, residents in Latin America and the Caribbean are the most likely to cite the cost of opening and maintaining an account (40%) as the barrier, while residents in sub-Saharan Africa are the most likely to cite costs and distance as barriers.

In addition, women are far more likely than men to report not having an account because "someone else in the family already has one," highlighting the challenges that women may encounter in account ownership and economic empowerment. For instance, other research shows that women having ownership over their own assets has an effect on household education and healthcare budget decisions.

Why people do not have an account at a financial institution


Although half of adults worldwide do not have bank accounts, at least 35% of them report barriers to account use that public policy could address. Among the most commonly reported barriers to having bank accounts are high cost, physical distance, and lack of proper documentation, though there are significant differences across regions and individual characteristics. These barriers suggest that a key to reducing the gap in financial inclusion is the expansion of new processes, products, and technology, such as mobile banking, that can provide affordable and accessible banking services, particularly to the rural poor.

Access the complete country-level data set, report, and questionnaire at www.worldbank.org/globalfindex.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults per country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2011 in 148 countries. For results based on the total samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±2 percentage points to ±5.1 percentage points.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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