Finding the Headwaters of Household Financial Assets

This research project examined the savings behavior of rural self-employed. Baseline and monthly/quarterly follow-up surveys of around 800 rural self-employed households in Bandarawela and Mahiyangana. A point-of-service device to mobilize savings was implemented (in partnership with a national-level savings bank) among randomly selected respondents.


“Deposit Collecting: Unbundling the Role of Frequency, Salience, and Habit Formation in Generating Savings”

Deposit collectors are common in many countries. Poor households have shown their willingness to pay for such services indicating the value of illiquid savings to those whose financial lives are transacted largely in cash.  We report on a field experiment using several methods for collecting deposits made in formal bank accounts in rural areas in Sri Lanka. We find that only frequent, face-to-face collection increases aggregate household savings. Collection involving community lock boxes increases balances at the collecting bank, but not overall household savings. Only community box collection appears to have the possibility of being financially viable. The various collection methods allow us to unbundle the role of frequency, salience and habit formation in deposit decisions. We find that frequency and salience affect the number of transactions, but not the level of savings.

Published in American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, Vol. 103, No. 3, May 2013, pp. 387-392. (downloadable from