Between 2008 and 2018, MFO conducted 15 different Financial Diaries studies and assisted in the implementation of three others. MFO’s Financial Diaries projects have spanned 11 different countries across the world. This global reach has provided MFO with an in-depth understanding of the financial behaviors of various low-income populations. Many of our findings are summarized in reports, briefs, and presentations listed below. Additionally, we have included findings from CGAP’s Smallholder Financial Diaries studies which we reference on the Data Portal page and which were conducted in Mozambique, Pakistan, and Tanzania. If you have any questions for our research team regarding our findings or methodology, please send your questions to email@example.com.
This interactive report presents the final analysis of the Bangladesh Garment Worker Diaries—a yearlong research project that collected data on the lives of 180 female garment workers across four regions in Bangladesh. The report examines the economic realities that these women faced in addition to their working conditions within the factories. Most women suffered from a high degree of financial stress brought on by the low wages they received, limiting the life-improving goods they could buy. This financial stress could be seen through the women's food insecurity, poor health, and reliance on loans. These conditions were then exacerbated by excessive work hours, unfair overtime pay, and poor safety within the factories. Together, these findings present a striking reality for garment workers in Bangladesh, one that is comparatively more difficult than their counterparts' in India and Cambodia. To further explore the conditions of Bangladeshi garment workers and to learn about some of their individual stories, please explore this report.
Each day, many of us wake up and throw on clothes before starting our day. But have you ever wondered about the people who make our clothes? What are their lives like, and what conditions do they face? This report explores the lives of two Bangladeshi garment workers: Fatema and Halima. Both women were participants in the Bangladeshi Garment Worker Diaries—a yearlong research project that collected data on the lives of 180 female garment workers across four regions in Bangladesh. Using data from August 2016 through mid-December 2016, the report compares the economic realities and working conditions that Fatema and Halima faced to the full sample of garment workers from the project. The report also explores differences in how Fatema and Halima managed their earnings and interacted with other household members. Together, the stories of Fatema and Halima highlight changes taking place within Bangladeshi society as well as within the garment industry.
This interactive report presents the final analysis of the Cambodian Garment Worker Diaries—a yearlong research project that collected data on the lives of 186 female garment workers in Phnom Penh and Kampong Speu. The report examines the economic realities that these women faced in addition to their working conditions within the factories. Despite most workers receiving a legal minimum wage and one that was higher than what workers in Bangladesh and India received, many workers experienced financial stress as seen by their food insecurity and limited spending on goods that would improve their quality of life. After speaking in-depth with the women, it was revealed that this stress was brought on by a need to save in order to insulate themselves against future emergencies. Thus, while the women may have been receiving enough money to cover their daily needs, a lack of social safety nets and insurance programs forced the women to spend less in preparation for future emergencies. This was confirmed by Diaries data which showed higher savings rates in Cambodia than in Bangladesh and India. To further explore the conditions of Cambodian garment workers and to learn about some of their individual stories, please explore this report.
Each day, many of us wake up and throw on clothes before starting our day. But have you ever wondered about the people who make our clothes? What are their lives like, and what conditions do they face? This report explores the life of a garment worker named Sokhaeng who participated in the Cambodian Garment Worker Diaries—a yearlong research project that collected data on the lives of 186 female garment workers in Phnom Penh and Kampong Speu. Using data from July 2016 through November 2016, the report compares the economic realities and working conditions that Sokhaeng faced to the full sample of garment workers from the project. Additionally, through a month-by-month narrative, the report explores the difficult financial choices Sokhaeng was forced to make: while she was trying to complete beauty school in order to better herself, other financial obligations such as loan repayments and cash transfers to her mother increased her household's financial stress. Ultimately, she, as with her fellow garment workers, managed to get by thanks to her deft money management skills.
This report draws on the results o a yearlong Financial Diaries study of the economic behavior of members of savings groups organized by Oxfam America's Saving for Change (SfC) program. Through weekly interviews with 218 respondents in Guatemala and El Salvador, the study attempted to understand the financial needs that savings group members might have beyond those being provided by the groups themselves. The data revealed that while groups succeeded in helping the women acquire lump sums of cash to make large purchases, the women often had leftover money that they then saved at home and eventually spent down. This behavior represents an opportunity for formal financial service providers who could help the women maintain their extra savings in a formal account rather than keeping it at home. MFO also recommended shortening the length of group cycles so that the women could receive shareouts more frequently, enabling them to use the money more often. In addition to these savings behaviors, MFO found that women in El Salvador used cash transfers from friends and family to help maintain their spending in weeks when they did not earn an income, and women in both countries conducted a majority of their financial transactions with in 1km of their homes. However, the data also suggested that there was little connection between a respondent's proximity to a formal service provider and her use of its services, meaning that distance was not an inhibitor to formal financial services.
This interactive report presents the final analysis of the Indian Garment Worker Diaries—a yearlong research project that collected data on the lives of 180 female garment workers across six areas outside Bangalore. The report examines the economic realities that these women faced in addition to their working conditions within the factories. Compared with workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia, the Indian garment workers appeared to suffer from less financial stress: although their earnings were lower than workers in Cambodia, many Indian garment workers received financial support from their husbands that helped cover day-to-day expenses. Additionally, at 46 hours, the Indian garment workers had the best regulated work days. However, one-third of workers still reported having inadequate access to food, and while their workdays were shorter, many Indian workers regularly reported experiencing verbal abuse within their factories. Thus, while the Indian workers fared better than those in Bangladesh and Cambodia, they too suffered from their own injustices and hardships. To further explore the conditions of Cambodian garment workers and to learn about some of their individual stories, please explore this report.
Each day, many of us wake up and throw on clothes before starting our day. But have you ever wondered about the people who make our clothes? What are their lives like, and what conditions do they face? This report explores the life of a garment worker named Usha who participated in the Indian Garment Worker Diaries—a yearlong research project that collected data on the lives of 180 female garment workers in six areas outside Bangalore. Using data from July 2016 through November 2016, the report compares the economic realities and working conditions that Usha faced to the full sample of garment workers from the project. Through Usha's story, we can see how the daily injustices that these workers face add up to a far from perfect system that leaves them feeling abused.
In 2015, MFO partnered with Arc Finance to conduct the first of its kind "Energy Diaries". In addition to collecting respondents' transactional data, MFO and its research partners collected household energy use in an attempt to better understand how poor households in India used energy. The study included 90 households evenly distributed throughout Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Manipur. This presentation outlines the major findings from the Energy Diaries, in addition to discussing the findings from a series of focus groups conducted by Arc Finance. Major findings from the Diaries portion include the discovery that households develop energy portfolios, similar to financial portfolios, which are driven by household income, social and geographical context, and family customs. Additionally, MFO found that switching from dirty to clean energy could increase the reliability of energy devices and potentially improve the quality of life of women.
Starting in 2010, MFO initiated its Consumer Education for Branchless Banking project in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation. As part of the project, MFO designed, implemented, and evaluated consumer education programs designed to improve the experience of low-income customers with branchless banking services. This report presents the findings from the evaluation of MFO's consumer education project in India where we partnered with FINO Paytech. The project was designed to provide FINO's clients with an initial training on how to use FINO's biometric smartcard technology. Using a mixed methods approach, MFO analyzed MIS and Diaries data along with interviews and focus group discussions to determine how effective the consumer education project was at meeting its intended goal. The Diaries data were collected from 187 respondents in Janpur and Mau, with 92 respondents living in an area that received the treatment and 95 living in an area that did not. In sum, MFO found that FINO had weakly implemented the rollout and consumer education project in areas outside of the Diaries locations, making it difficult to make strong conclusions about the program's effectiveness. However, we did find that clients and FINO agents found the education materials to be helpful, and in the three weeks following the training, Diaries data revealed that women who were trained decreased the amount they borrowed compared to the period before they were trained.
Between November 2009 and July 2010, MFO interviewed 92 respondents using the Financial Diaries methodology in order to examine how low-income Kenyans used M-PESA, one of the first large-scale mobile money services. The study focused on: the value of M-PESA to low-income individuals, the most likely areas for M-PESA's future growth, and whether M-PESA could serve as a platform for financial services beyond remittances. Analysis revealed that despite M-PESA's growth, cash was preferred. M-PESA was primarily used to send money home, from urban areas to rural ones, and recipients almost always immediately cashed out. Respondents did not use M-PESA as a savings account, though the service was an important part of their coping strategies for unusually large expenses, such as hospital bills. Finally, the study introduced a Distance/Purpose Framework to segment the e-money transactions by the distance it traveled (local or long-distance) and by its purpose (business or household). Within this framework, MFO found that low-income Kenyans' use of M-PESA was embedded in pre-existing social and spatial relations, mimicing those of cash, and e-money providers had an untapped sweet spot in terms of cost and price, that would allow them to serve businesses.
MFO conducted a Financial Diaries study in central Malawi for 18 months between 2008 and 2009. The purpose of the study was to explore the extent to which Opportunity International Bank of Malawi (OIBM) added value through the introduction of a mobile "bank on wheels" serving rural areas. MFO interviewed 257 respondents each week, half of whom were clients of OIBM's new bank on wheels. The study found that banks and individual cash transfers dominated the financial service market with banks capturing large transactions and cash transfers mediating day-to-day needs. Use of the bank on wheels dropped off over time, though several factors unrelated to the bank may have caused this. Multiple lines of transactional evidence suggest that OIBM's mobile bank succeeded in adding value for its female clients. For example, OIBM helped to smooth consumption during weeks with no income, though it was small compared to informal mechanisms. The banks also helped some clients finance larger-than-usual expenditures.
UNCDF commissioned MFO and its partner TNS Myanmar to conduct a yearlong Financial Diaries study to provide in-depth market intelligence on the economic behavior of low-income residents in Myanmar. The study included 101 women and 10 men living in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas of the Mandalay Region, though analysis focused on the women. This report provides an introduction to the project, methodology, and sample before providing a brief summary of the major findings. Specifically, the report discusses findings related to financial service use, the role of women in the household economy, and lump sum purchases. The report then provides policy implications based on these findings. Whereas this report should be considered to be an overview of the findings, more in-depth analysis and discussions can be found in the reports and briefs included below.
This brief provides an in-depth look at the findings related to financial service use which were presented in the Overview report. Specifically, the report takes a deep dive into the financial behavior of respondents when it comes to savings and loans. The analysis reveals that respondents regularly saved at home, most likely due to the limited availability of other service providers. While, on average, loan use was common, a closer look reveals that a small group of respondents were responsible for a majority of the loan activity and were likely to be caught in a debt trap. In-depth interviews with 18 respondents suggest that most respondents chose not to use loans due to the limited availability of providers as well as a cultural apprehension towards taking on debt. Instead, respondents found saving to be noble and necessary when managing a household's finances. The brief concludes with implications for financial service providers hoping to expand financial service use in Myanmar.
MFO defines a lump sum purchase as any non-financial expenditure that is especially large for a respondent. This brief explores the 924 lump sum purchases made by respondents in the Myanmar Financial Diaries. As the brief details, while the expenditures ranged from luxuries such as television purchases to cultural expenses such as religious offerings, the most common type of lump sum purchase was rice. The brief then goes on to discuss the seasonality behind respondents' lump sum purchases and the income sources they used to finance these purchases. Finally, the brief presents implications for financial service providers hoping to increase financial inclusion in Myanmar by discussing ways in which to align these large purchases with financial services.
This brief explores the different types of seasonality that were at work in the Myanmar Financial Diaries data. Specifically, it explores cultural seasonality—driven by festivals—and agricultural seasonality—driven by the agricultural cycle. The brief then goes on to compare the effects of this seasonality on different segments of respondents, particularly those with different livelihoods and different levels of variation in their incomes. Finally, the brief concludes with the implications of these findings for financial service providers as they attempt to promote financial inclusion by ensuring that financial services address the cyclical challenges that different segments face.
Following the completion of the Myanmar Financial Diaries in 2015, MFO conducted a stakeholder meeting in December 2015 in Yangon. During the meeting, MFO presented the findings discussed in the three briefs discussed above. Additionally, MFO discussed the role that women played in managing household income, and MFO also introduced its simple income segmentation model—the model groups respondents according to their income level and income variation. After exploring these findings, the presentation discussed a series of implications relevant to financial service providers in the country as they attempt to boost financial inclusion.
Relying on Financial Diaries data collected in Myanmar between 2014 and 2015, this report discusses the different roles that women play within the home. The report begins with a brief discussion of what previous literature has found in regards to the economic household roles that women in Myanmar hold. It then goes on to describe the Diaries study and presents the results of analysis where the respondents were segmented according to their spending, earning, money management, and financial management behaviors. These segments revealed four unique roles that women performed in their homes. The report then concludes with a discussion of the overall findings and recommendations for a multi-dimensional approach when promoting women's economic empowerment in Myanmar.
This document includes 12 case studies drawn from the Myanmar Financial Diaries. The case studies include a combination of quantitative—drawn from the weekly Diaries data—and qualitative data—drawn from 18 in-depth interviews conducted by Stuart Rutherford halfway through the project. The case studies include visual representations of respondents' cash flows, and each case study follows the same structure: a description of the respondent; a discussion of her cash flow; a discussion of her financial tool use; and her expectations for the future. The case studies detail a variety of behaviors witnessed in the Diaries study, providing a more in-depth look at some of the findings mentioned in the briefs and reports listed above.
Papua New Guinea
MFO conducted a Financial Diaries study in Papua New Guinea between November 2012 and May 2013. The study included 149 respondents from Goroka, Kimbe, and Port Moresby. This brief focuses on the patterns of income on which respondents in the study relied for their livelihoods. In addition to analyzing major sources of income, analyzing livelihoods provides detail on the wide variety of earnings flows that different individuals experience, for example: intermittent flows versus regular flows. Categorizing these flows creates a typology of livelihoods that provides insights into the different types of financial management challenges that respondents face. This typology provides a segmentation of the population according to behavior, rather than socioeconomic characteristics, that can help the private sector and policy-makers more accurately tailor their product and service offerings and policy interventions to the needs of individuals in different segments.
MFO conducted a Financial Diaries study in Papua New Guinea between November 2012 and May 2013. The study included 149 respondents from Goroka, Kimbe, and Port Moresby. One power of the Financial Diaries methodology is its ability to provide insight into how people prioritize their nonbusiness expenditures. It can also show how these spending priorities vary across different categories of individuals. This brief analyzes how the respondents in Papua New Guinea spent their money during the study period, providing a detailed picture of the major spending categories that composed their share of wallet. The brief also captures the types of places where transactions occurred and the distance traveled from home to carry out these transactions. These findings will help provide the private sector and policy-makers with an understanding of how people’s expenditure patterns could impact financial service use and product design.
MFO conducted a Financial Diaries study in Papua New Guinea between November 2012 and May 2013. The study included 149 respondents from Goroka, Kimbe, and Port Moresby. This brief will help the private sector and policy-makers understand the networks that the poor in Papua New Guinea are using to manage their money and draw implications from these findings. The analysis will focus on individuals’ use of informal cash transfers, loans, and savings, and formal bank accounts and remittance services. The brief draws on transaction records from the Financial Diaries study, as well as in-depth interviews with a subset of respondents in Papua New Guinea.
MFO conducted a Financial Diaries study in rural Uganda throughout 2011 and 2012 with 91 respondents. The study began as a quasi-experimental, difference-in-difference evaluation of a Habitat for Humanity financial education intervention in rural Uganda, using Financial Diaries and in-depth interviews to gather pre- and post-intervention data about the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors of individuals in the study. However, issues with sampling resulted in MFO reorienting the project towards answering a series of methods-focused research questions about: 1) what Diaries can tell researchers about financial capability; 2) how changes in indicators of financial capability can be tracked through Diaries data; and 3) when is it appropriate to use Diaries data to evaluate a financial education program? In addition to answering these questions, the report presents more general methodological lessons learned, and it presents implications for future studies of financial education initiatives.
In 2014, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) launched a Financial Diaries project in Kasama, the capital of Zambia's Northern Province. The purpose of the two-year study was to understand the experience of low-income households that participated in CRS's Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILCs). Given MFO's experience with Diaires projects, CRS asked MFO to help guide the second year of the project and to analyze the data to answer a series of research questions. The analysis included respondents from 270 households—135 treatment households that participated in a SILC, and 135 control households that did not—in peri-urban and rural areas around Kasama. Overall, analysis revealed that there were some marginal improvements for households participating in SILCs. However, there were other issues—such as large variations in group performance and evidence that households interacted with SILCs less over time—that raised important questions for CRS to address as it continues to roll out its SILC program and continue researching its effectiveness.
In 2014, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) launched a Financial Diaries project in Kasama, the capital of Zambia's Northern Province. The purpose of the two-year study was to understand the experience of low-income households that participated in CRS's Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILCs). Given MFO's experience with Diaires projects, CRS asked MFO to help guide the second year of the project and to analyze the data to answer a series of research questions. This brief summarizes the major take-aways from the analysis, which includes findings such as: 1) SILCs helped generate large sums of cash; 2) SILC funds improved participants' quality of life; and 3) SILCs improved households' resilience. The brief then summarizes major insights and implications from these findings.
MFO was commissioned by Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ) in 2014 to conduct a Financial Diaries study to examine how low-income individuals across Zambia managed their financial lives. The study included 355 respondents across four provinces—Lusaka, Copperbelt, Eastern, and Western Provinces. The report starts by introducing the sample and then exploring their income, expenditures, and financial tool use as seen in the weekly Diaries data. The next chapter explores respondents' attitudes toward risk management, future planning, and financial service providers as derived from in-depth interviews. Building off these descriptive findings, the report dives into the different ways respondents manage their cash flow, particularly exploring differences between respondents with different income behaviors. The report then explores the ways in which respondents financed lump sum and asset purchases. The report concludes with a discussion of how stakeholders can apply a simple income segmentation framework—similar to the one used in this report—to identify different financial behaviors and address the needs of those particular groups.
MFO was commissioned by Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ) in 2014 to conduct a Financial Diaries study to examine how low-income individuals across Zambia managed their financial lives. This interim report focuses on the first 32 weeks of data and the 352 respondents who were actively participating in the study at that time. This report re-introduces MFO's income segmentation model, first discussed in the Papua New Guinea Diaries. Through a discussion of livelihoods, MFO explains how segmenting respondents by their income level and income variation is more useful in determining their financial behavior. The report then explores different expenditures made by the respondents provides an in-depth look at the financial tools and networks they used. The report concludes with a discussion on implications from the report's findings, emphasizing: 1) the need to segment clients by their behavior rather than demographic traits; 2) the opportunity for service providers to link informal points-of-sale to the digital financial system; and 3) the need for service providers to explore different strategies that encourage low-income markets to move their savings from home to somewhere more secure.
Mozambique, Pakistan, and Tanzania
For CGAP's Financial Diaries with Smallholder Households, researchers interviewed 270 total families in Mozambique, Pakistan, and Tanzania every two weeks for an entire calendar year, tracking their income, expenses, and agricultural production. The result was approximately 500,000 data points, combined with rich personal stories, about the challenges these families face - related to agriculture, finance, and other areas of life such as health and education. MFO has used publicly available data provided by CGAP, in addition to its many Diaries studies, to take a deep dive into the financial behavior of low-income clients. Some of this work is currently available on the Data Portal.
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