The Effect of Savings Accounts on Interpersonal Financial Relationships: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Kenya
Last registered on June 30, 2015


Trial Information
General Information
The Effect of Savings Accounts on Interpersonal Financial Relationships: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Kenya
Initial registration date
June 30, 2015
Last updated
June 30, 2015 3:58 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
University of California, Santa Cruz
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Stanford University
PI Affiliation
Wesleyan University
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
The welfare impact of expanding access to bank accounts depends on whether accounts crowd out pre-existing financial relationships, or whether private gains from accounts are shared within social networks. To study the effect of accounts on financial linkages, we provided free bank accounts to a random subset of 885 households. Within households, we randomized which spouse was offered an account and find no evidence of negative spillovers to spouses. Across households, we document positive spillovers: treatment households become less reliant on grown children and siblings living outside their village, and become more supportive of neighbors and friends within their village.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Dupas, Pascaline, Anthony Keats and Jonathan Robinson. 2015. "The Effect of Savings Accounts on Interpersonal Financial Relationships: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Kenya." AEA RCT Registry. June 30.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
- bank usage (from administrative records)

From surveys:
- savings behavior (formal and informal)
- transfers (intra- and inter-household)
- expenditures
- food security
- business investment
- farm investment
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Sampling Frame
This study took place in the catchment area of banks in three market centers in Western Kenya. A census of all households in these catchment areas was carried out between August and September 2009. The census survey collected information on demographic characteristics of the household, sources of income, as well as access to financial services, knowledge and perceptions of available financial services, and saving practices. A total of 1,898 households were surveyed during the census exercise. Only 20% of these households had a member with a bank account, despite the fact that the average distance to the closest deposit-taking financial institution was (by design) only 1.6 kilometers, suggesting that physical access was unlikely to be a limiting factor. Account ownership was predominantly male: 21% of men had a bank account, against only 10% of women.

Of the 1,898 households in the census, about half (989) were selected to participate in the study. Those households excluded from the study were those with at least one bank account holder (20%), and relatively atypical households, i.e. polygamous households (8%) and households with no female head (11%). Of the 989 sampled households, we could survey both (when applicable) households heads in survey round 1 in 931 cases, and again in at least one of the following rounds in 885 of the cases. Our analysis sample thus consists of 885 households for whom we have at least one follow-up survey round.

Out of the household sample, we created a sample of household heads. This individual-level sample included either one or two individuals per household: the female head for single female-headed households, and both the female and male head for dual-headed households. We then randomized these individuals into treatment and control groups. The randomization was done in May 2010, after stratifying the sample by household composition (single female-headed or dual-headed), primary occupation, and market center. Note that the randomization was conducted at the individual, not the household level. Thus, among dual-headed households, while there are households in which either, both, or neither spouse got the account, the size of each group was determined by chance -- and consequently, the four groups are not equal sized. Table A1 shows the final breakdown of households in our analysis sample. Among dual-headed households, 17% had no one assigned to the treatment, 33% had both heads assigned to the treatment group, 26% had only the female head assigned to treatment and 24% had only the male head assigned to treatment. Among single female-headed households, 50% were assigned to the treatment group.

Savings accounts
Individuals selected for the treatment received a nominal, non-transferable voucher for a free savings account. As mentioned above, the study took place around three market centers. In one of these market centers, both the Village Bank and the Commercial Bank have a branch, and the voucher was redeemable at either bank. In the other two market centers, only the Village Bank had a branch, so respondents in those markets were given a voucher redeemable only at the Village Bank. The experiment waived all account opening and maintenance fees, but did not cover any withdrawal fees. In total, the subsidy amounted to $5 for accounts at the village bank and $2.50 plus $0.60 a month for maintenance at the commercial bank. The commercial bank account came with a free ATM card.

The vouchers were delivered to people in their homes between late May and early July 2010. During that visit, individuals received information on how the banks and accounts worked, and when and how to redeem the voucher. Upon opening the account, individuals could choose to open the account jointly with their spouse or alone. Sixty-nine percent of vouchers that were distributed were redeemed. Only 5.7% of accounts that were opened were joint accounts.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization was done in office by computer, using Stata.
Randomization Unit
Randomization was done at the individual level, but most of the analysis was performed at the household level. For each household, we constructed treatment status based on the assignment of the husband and the wife.

We also performed some intra-household analysis, for which we used the treatment status of each spouse (for married couples).
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
885 households
Sample size: planned number of observations
approximately 3,200 household surveys (varying somewhat from outcome to outcome)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
- Overall: 602 treatment, 283 control.

- Single-headed households: 198 treatment, 201 control

- Dual-headed households: 127 female only, 116 male only, 161 both spouses, 82 control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
University of California, Santa Cruz
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
University of California, Los Angeles
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Innovations for Poverty Action - Kenya
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Stanford University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
July 31, 2012, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
July 31, 2012, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
885 households
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
approximately 3,200 household surveys (depending on outcome)
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
602 treatment, 283 control
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers