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Are Social and Financial Exclusion Two Sides of the Same Coin? An Analysis of the Financial Integration of Vulnerable People


The economic crisis has increased the inequality and heterogeneity of people at risk of social exclusion, and thus their financial vulnerability. This article reviews the literature on the determinants of unbanking and underbanking and proposes a model linking financial and social exclusion. We aimed to determine if people at risk of poverty and social exclusion are integrated -and to what extent- in the financial system. To answer this question, we identified the demographic and the social exclusion factors that determine both the status of financial vulnerability and the use of banking services. We used multivariate analysis methods to analyze the information from the survey on social vulnerability conducted by the Red Cross Spain in 2015. Our results show a negative relationship between the risk of social exclusion and the intensity of use of banking services. This can lead to financial vulnerability and exclusion in the most extreme situations. We suggest that underbanking is the most relevant—but not previously studied- situation of financial vulnerability in Europe and discuss its implications for policymakers. This paper contributes to the measurement of the link between financial and social exclusion, and is the first quantitative study on the use of banking products by vulnerable people in a European context.

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Fig. 1

Source: Adapted from Baker and Mason model (2012)

Fig. 2

Source: Own elaboration


  1. Financially underserved people are defined in that study as the population that has no means of electronic payment.

  2. We do not consider the circle of resilience of the adaptation of the model of Baker and Mason (2012) in our relationship model. We only consider the circumstances determining the status of financial vulnerability.


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The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The authors acknowledge the collaboration of the Spanish Red Cross.

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Correspondence to Juan Diego Paredes-Gázquez.

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Fernández-Olit, B., Paredes-Gázquez, J.D. & de la Cuesta-González, M. Are Social and Financial Exclusion Two Sides of the Same Coin? An Analysis of the Financial Integration of Vulnerable People. Soc Indic Res 135, 245–268 (2018).

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  • Social exclusion
  • Financial vulnerability
  • Consumer vulnerability
  • Banking services
  • Unbanking
  • Underbanking

JEL Classification

  • D14
  • A13 e I31