SAVINGS MONITOR: DEPLOYING LOCAL SOCIAL NETWORKS TO MOBILIZE SAVINGS

Principal Investigators: Prof. Abhijit Banerjee (MIT) , Dr. Emily Breza (Columbia Business School) , Dr. Arun Chandrasekhar (Stanford University)
Research Team: Monisha Mason, Shahid Vaziralli, Parul Agarwal
LEAD Centre: Centre for Microfinance (CMF)
Focus Area: Savings
Project Geography: Karnataka , India
Partner: Local banks & post offices , including SBI, SBM , Canara Bank & Pragathi Gramin Bank
Status: Ongoing

Background:

This research project involves conducting a field experiment in 60 villages in rural India. Individuals who expressed an interest in saving more served as our clients. We explored ways to help individuals increase their savings balances. We designed an intervention that involved assisting in account opening, setting reachable goals, and visiting households regularly. In addition, some savers in our field experiment were assigned (or chose) monitors from their community who are made aware on a regular basis of the saver’s progress towards his/her goal. All of the above were done from June 2012 to June 2013 which constituted Phase 1 of the Project. They key objectives of Phase 1 were ‘Did monitors help in increasing saving balances?’ and ‘Which kind of monitors were most effective based on a) method of assignment of monitors (endogenous and random) b) their position in the social network.

The essential objectives of Phase 2 are to see if the savings habit persists over time and how savings have been used to mitigate shocks and for building assets. This involves returning to all the saver households across all 60 villages (around 1270 respondents), and administering a Final Endline Survey to them.

The purpose of this survey to analyse and study how savings impacted businesses, household welfare, helped in the mitigation of shocks and understand through a set of behavioural questions the beliefs of the respondent saver about other savers in their village. There are also a set of open ended questions in order to get first hand comments and anecdotes on reasons, as to why the goal could not be met, relationship between the savers and monitors and other such issues.