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Measuring financial access

What can we learn from cross-country variations in households' bank deposits?

The International Monetary Fund compiles a financial access survey for most countries in the world. This survey allows us to compare metrics on how households and businesses in different countries participate in financial markets—as either borrowers or lenders. For this map, we chose one particular measure that determines how much households deposit in banks, with the latest numbers from 2015 as a share of that country’s GDP. The map highlights stark differences: The general tendency is that poorer countries have smaller shares. The lowest are Malta (0.2%), Chad (8%), and Sudan (11%). But Argentina has only 16% (in 2014, since 2015 data aren’t available) and Germany has only 28%. If you’re looking for the highest, you’ll need to zoom in a lot: The tiny republic of San Marino has 280%, followed by Lebanon (254%) and Venezuela (178%).

How can we make sense of this? In countries with sophisticated financial markets, households have more options and thus may choose to put their savings in other assets. For example, it’s very popular in Germany to save by investing in building societies, which promote homeownership. Conversely, the lack of options beyond savings and deposit accounts may induce households to concentrate all their wealth there or to look for assets outside the financial sector. In other words, every country should probably have some sort of footnote attached to its numbers to explain its unique context.

How this map was created: The original post referenced an interactive map from our now discontinued GeoFRED site. The revised post provides a replacement map from FRED’s new mapping tool. To create FRED maps, go to the data series page in question and look for the green “VIEW MAP” button at the top right of the graph. See this post for instructions to edit a FRED map. Only series with a green map button can be mapped.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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