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What is financial inclusion? A critical review

Thereza Balliester Reis
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Thereza Balliester Reis: Department of Economics, SOAS University of London

No 246, Working Papers from Department of Economics, SOAS University of London, UK

Abstract: Financial inclusion (FI) has become a key policy for poverty reduction in developing countries. However, there is no consensus on what FI comprises, who should be included and who will deliver this inclusion. The different interpretations of the concept may lead to implementations that do not correspond to the original intent. Moreover, by making certain assumptions implicit, FI may be a policy that merely replicates microfinance initiatives. In order to illustrate the inconsistencies in the existing literature, this article displays a literature review of 67 studies about the definition of FI. Built on the systematic review approach, studies are selected based on inclusion and exclusion criteria, as well as an explicit search strategy, thus providing a reliable and replicable outcome. After identifying the studies, we present a critical discussion about the underlying theoretical and empirical implications of the definitions of FI. This assessment enables a better understanding of FI and its framing. To conclude, a plain definition is suggested to ensure transparency and comparability of FI research.

Keywords: Financial inclusion; financial development; systematic review; definition (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B50 G50 O12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 34
Date: 2021-12
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ban, nep-cwa, nep-fdg, nep-fle, nep-hme and nep-pke
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