According to a new study conducted by Gallup and the World Bank, 89% of adults in high-income countries report having a bank account, but that number plummets to 41% for residents of countries with developing economies.

Overall, the study indicated that 50% of adults worldwide have a formal bank account. That number includes individuals with an account at a bank, credit union, cooperative, post office or microfinance institution. In the United States, the survey reported 88% of adults have a bank account at one or more of these institutions.

Scandinavian, African countries at extremes

According to the study, some countries have near-universal account penetration, with almost all adults having a bank account at a formal financial institution. These countries appear to be concentrated in and near Scandinavia, with Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands identified as areas in which virtually every adult has a savings account, checking account or other form of account.

Among those at the other end of the spectrum are sub-Saharan African countries, a region where only 24% of adults bank at a formal institution. Account ownership appears very low in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Guinea, where less than 4% of adults have a bank account. In Niger, only 1.5% of adults have an account.

Despite the low level of account penetration in these countries, sub-Saharan Africa is not the region with the lowest level of reported account ownership. Instead, that distinction goes to the Middle East and North Africa, where 18 percent of adults have an account at a formal financial institution.

Barriers to account ownership

Most adults who do not have a bank account say they simply do not have enough money to warrant one. Nearly two in three adults gave this reason for why they did not have an account. In addition, 30% say the cost of opening and maintaining an account is prohibitive.

Other reasons for not having a bank account vary by region. In sub-Saharan Africa, the long distance to formal financial institutions was cited as a reason by 31% of those without an account. In south Asia, 34% do not have a bank account because another family member already had one.

Women in particular were more likely to report that they did not have a bank account because another family member has one, a statistic that highlights the obstacles women face in achieving economic independence.

The Gallup report indicated that, for 35% of those without bank accounts, public policy changes could increase account ownership. The study cited costs, physical distances and concerns about documentation as primary issues that public policy could address to boost the percentage of adults with accounts.

The original article can be found at Money-Rates.com:
Survey: Half of adults worldwide have bank accounts