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衡量财务健康状况:并非看起来那么容易

其他国际资讯

衡量财务健康状况:并非看起来那么容易

过去一年中,金融服务创新中心 (CFSI) 和 普惠金融中心 (CFI) 对新兴市场的财务健康状况进行了一番探究。我们想了解财务健康的概念是不是可用于了解消费者的合适框架,这个概念在美国得到了CFSI的广泛推广。

财务健康被定义为当你的日常系统能帮你形成抵御能力并寻求机会时的状态。我们采用的假设是:财务健康可以作为追踪新兴市场进步情况的方法,因为它是人们努力试图达到的状态,因此是普惠金融的核心目的之一。

为了开展这项工作我们去了肯尼亚和印度的城市及农村地区,在Dalberg Design Impact Group的帮助和盖茨基金会(Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)的资金支持下,我们向这些市场的消费者提了一些关于他们理财活动的问题。这些问题的范围很广,从如果将所有资产变现他们能有多少钱,到万一发生紧急情况他们的朋友会不会在财务上帮助他们(以及在这两者范围内的大约一百个其他问题)等等。

这项研究工作的目的是确定在发展中国家财务健康的关键指标是什么,类似于CFSI为美国市场确定的八个关键指标。我们发现尽管财务健康的概念在印度和肯尼亚这样的国家依然成立,但界定和衡量财务健康的指标看起来和美国的指标有一定的不同。最后形成的框架可以总结如下。

尽管包括扶贫协商小组(CGAP)的代表在内的许多利益相关方赞同有关发展中国家财务健康的总体框架,但我们发现在实际衡量财务健康的时候存在三个重大挑战。

1. 将抽象的概念转化成可以衡量的问题

了解人们的理财活动其复杂程度令人难以置信,而且往往无法通过提出简单的指示性问题搞清楚。这与美国的情况不同,在美国CFSI就财务健康进行了消费者层面的研究,并能有效提供有关消费者如何花销、存款、借贷和计划的数字。

尽管美国的多数调查对象有银行账户、纳税记录以及其他正式的财务往来账目记录了他们的理财活动,但印度和肯尼亚的多数受访者则是在正规的金融体系之外开展理财活动。例如,为了对收支平衡状况形成概念,我们被迫以选择题的方式就个人如何看待他(或她)相对于收入的支出情况提出问题,比如:

  1. 我们常常没有足够的钱买食物
  2. 我们有足够的钱应付基本开销,比如食物、衣服和学费,但是没有足够的钱买昂贵的商品,比如冰箱和电视。
  3. 我们可以买得起某些昂贵的商品,比如冰箱和电视
  4. 我们想买什么都买得起

然而,我们发现这个问题假设“基本”开销就是食物、衣服和学费,而“昂贵”的东西就是电视和冰箱是不对的。我们发现人们的需求层次结构并没有那么简单。一位积极进取、愿意冒险的企业主可能会为了将钱用于对其业务方面的昂贵投入而放弃常规的一日三餐。一位与我们交谈的妇女表示,如果她得到了意外之财的话,她会买电视而不是食物,尽管她常常没有足够的钱买食物,因为这样她的孩子就能将注意力从他们的现实生活上转移开。

2. 确保问题的措辞方式使它能产生可靠且有可比性的答复

即使我们搞“对”了问题,往往也无法确定调查对象如何解读它们。因此,我们提出了这个问题:“在过去12个月里你的家庭是否经历了下列冲击?”然后列出了10种可能的冲击,比如自然灾害、失业或医疗紧急状况。我们的研究发现只有30%的印度人报告说过去12个月里面临过冲击,而大约有80%的肯尼亚人面临过冲击。我们的样本量谈不上具备统计学意义,但从Dalberg团队在定量研究之前对印度家庭进行的定性访问来看,我们知道了大部分家庭经历过冲击,然而他们并没有以在我们看来准确的方式回答调查问题。对他们来说我们定义冲击的方式是否让人困惑?是不是有些我们认为是冲击的东西对这些家庭来说划不到这一类里?我们希望下一阶段的工作能专注于设计准确的调查问题,以便在一定程度上弄清这些模糊的概念,这是一项十分困难又非常重要的任务。

3. 理解情境因素的作用

在我们对从肯尼亚和印度收集到的海量数据进行分析的时候,除了财务健康的直接指标外,浮出水面的还有其他因素——更具外源性的因素——对财务健康产生过大的影响。这四个因素反映了CGAP围绕客户中心性开展的许多工作,特别是对穷人如何理财的了解。不讨论这些外源性因素或者说情境因素,我们就无法负责任地说明衡量财务健康的合理性,但我们也不希望我们对财务健康的衡量产生“这些因素是预言性”的暗示。例如,我们不希望未来对财务健康的衡量产生“收入有波动性的低收入人群在财务上不可能是健康的”的暗示——尽管我们的确得出了在一些低阈值情况下事实可能正是如此的结论。

最后,我们决定不将这些因素纳入对财务健康本身的衡量,而是对这些因素在使人们更容易或者更难以实现财务健康方面发挥的作用进行描述。未来,为了更好地解释财务健康在个人、社区,甚至国家层面的差异,这些因素对今后的调查来说将是至关重要的。

鉴于我们将沿着这个概念继续努力,因此接下来我们将采取措施完善并更好地测试我们的调查工具。我们期待继续与研究人员和利益相关方密切配合,解决衡量过程中的这些问题。

 

Over the past year, the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) have explored financial health in emerging markets. We wanted to understand whether the concept of financial health, promoted widely in the United States by CFSI, could be used as a relevant framework to understand consumers. Financial health is defined as coming about when your daily systems help you build resilience and pursue opportunities. Our working hypothesis was that financial health could serve as a method of tracking progress in emerging markets since it is what people strive to attain, and therefore is one of the core aims of financial inclusion.

Our work took us to rural and urban areas in Kenya and India. With the help of the Dalberg Design Impact Group and funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we asked consumers in these markets questions about their financial lives. These questions ranged from how much money they could come up with if they liquidated all of their assets to whether their friends would help them financially in case of an emergency (and about a hundred other questions in between these two ends of the spectrum).

The aim of the research was to identify the key indicators of financial health in a developing world context, similar to the eight key indicators that CFSI had identified for the U.S. market. We found that while financial health as a concept holds in countries like India and Kenya, the indicators to define and measure financial health look somewhat different from those in the United States. The resulting framework can be summed up as follows.

While a range of stakeholders, including representatives from CGAP, agreed with the overall framework of financial health in developing countries, we discovered three significant challenges in the actual measurement of it.

1. Translating abstract concepts into measurable questions

Understanding people’s financial lives is incredibly complex and not always clear by asking simple, indicative questions. This differs from the situation in the United States, where CFSI undertook consumer-level research on financial health and was effectively able to provide figures behind how consumers spend, save, borrow, and plan.

Whereas most American respondents have bank accounts, tax records and other formal financial transactions that document their financial lives, most interviewees in India and Kenya conduct their financial lives outside the formal financial system. To arrive at the concept of balancing income and expenses, for example, we were forced to ask a question about an individual’s perception of his or her expenses relative to income by providing multiple choice answers such as:

  1. We often don’t have enough money for food
  2. We have enough money for basic items such as food, clothes, and school fees, but not enough money to buy expensive good such as a refrigerator and a television
  3. We can afford to buy certain expensive goods such as a refrigerator and a television
  4. We can afford to buy whatever we want

However, what we found was that this question may have incorrectly assumed that “basic” items are food, clothes, and school fees, and “expensive” items are TVs and refrigerators. We found that people do not have such a simple hierarchy of needs. An aggressive, risk-taking entrepreneur may give up regular meals for the sake of significant investment in expensive inputs in her business. One woman we talked with, who often did not have enough money for food, said that if she had a cash windfall she would buy a television rather than food so her children could distract themselves from the realities of their life.

2. Ensuring questions are phrased in ways that generate trustworthy and comparable responses

Even when we got the questions “right,” we were not always confident in how our respondents interpreted them. For example, we wanted to understand people’s level of resilience to financial shocks, so we asked, “Has your household witnessed any of the following shocks in the last 12 months?” Then we listed about 10 possible shocks, such as a natural disaster, a job loss or a medical emergency. Our research found that only 30 percent of Indians reported facing shocks over the last 12 months, while in Kenya about 80 percent had faced shocks. Our sample size was far from statistically significant, but from the qualitative interviews that the Dalberg team had done with Indian households prior to the quantitative research, we knew that most households had experienced shocks. Yet they weren’t answering the survey question in a way that seemed accurate to us. Were we defining shocks in a confusing way to them? Did we consider something to be a shock that did not rise to that categorization for these families? We hope the next phase of our work can focus on the difficult, yet important task of designing accurate survey questions to get at some of these nebulous concepts.

3. Understanding the role of contextual factors

As we analyzed the sea of data that we collected from Kenya and India, what rose to the surface, in addition to the direct indicators of financial health, were other factors — more exogenous ones — that had an outsized impact on financial health. These four factors mirror much of CGAP’s work around customer centricity, in particular the insights about how the poor manage their money. We could not justify responsibly measuring financial health without discussing these exogenous or contextual factors, but we also did not want our measurement of financial health to imply that these factors are predictive. For example, we did not want future measures of financial health to imply that moderately low income people with income volatility cannot be financially healthy – though we did conclude that at some very low threshold this may be the case.

Ultimately, we decided not to integrate these factors into the measurement of financial health itself but instead to describe their role in making it easier or harder for people to achieve financial health. Moving forward, these factors will be critical to future surveys in order to better explain variations in financial health on the individual, the community, or even the national level.

As we move forward with this concept, our next steps will be to refine and better test our survey instruments. We are looking forward to continuing to engage with researchers and stakeholders in resolving these challenges of measurement.


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