Changing Lives One Penny at a Time

Conducting research in rural Nepal, Case Western Reserve University economist Silvia Prina, PhD, made a surprising discovery. Even villagers with next to nothing could, and wanted to, save money to buffer shocks, such as unexpected healthcare and education costs.

So, in partnership with two nongovernmental organizations, Prina implemented a basic savings account in 21 Nepali villages, where an average household earns $20 per year.

Early results are positive. Participants deposit on average once each week at a rate of 9 percent of their weekly income-a percentage higher than Americans have saved in years- and have 40 percent more monetary assets than those not participating in the program.

"The ultimate goal is to have an attractive business model for a bank that wants to launch a savings account for the poor not only in Nepal, but anywhere else in the world," Prina says.