Skip to main content

School Banking as a Strategy for Strengthening Youth Economic Participation in Developing Countries: Lessons from YouthSave


Schools are the primary settings where both education and health services are delivered to youth in developing countries. A similar approach can be used for financial inclusion. Financial inclusion, in turn, can lead to positive youth development outcomes in education and health. But a critical first step is financial access. This study examines how schools can serve as the setting for financial education and financial services, increasing youth economic participation. Research in four developing countries finds an increase in youth savings account uptake when financial institutions provide opportunities at schools for youth to receive financial education, open savings accounts, and make deposits. Findings are that school banking can overcome some of the regulatory, geographic, and information barriers that limit youth access to safe and affordable savings services. Marginalized youth, including those who are low-income and females, participate as much as other youth. We conclude that schools can play an important role in increasing youth economic participation, a positive step toward economic strengthening and overall well-being. As a possible implication, school-based health programming might consider integrating school banking features, such as opening savings accounts, into future program design and implementation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Although we did not collect data on whether participating schools were public or private, it is likely that the majority were public schools because the FIs targeted their outreach to these schools and to low-income youth. In addition, the majority of students in primary, junior high, and secondary level attend schools that are publicly funded: over 75% in Ghana and Kenya and over 80% in Nepal and Colombia (World Bank 2017; UNESCO 2011; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 2014).

  2. The question was not among those posed to accountholders in Colombia.

  3. In Ghana, a randomized, controlled experiment was conducted to examine the effect of in-school banking (financial education, account opening, and deposit collection) and outreach activities (marketing and account opening) on account uptake and savings based on individual-level data. Findings based on school-level analysis are presented here for the purpose of comparison with other countries. Findings from the Ghana YouthSave in-school banking experiment showed that the intervention was positively and statistical significantly associated with both account uptake and savings (Lee et al. 2017).


Download references


The Center for Social Development (CSD) at Washington University sincerely thanks our research partners in YouthSave: Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), and New ERA in Nepal. Without the exceptional skills and hard work of these excellent research partners, this study would not be possible.

We also thank the participating FIs: Banco Caja Social (BCS) in Colombia, HFC Bank in Ghana, Kenya Post Office Savings Bank (Postbank) in Kenya, and Bank of Kathmandu Ltd. (BOK) in Nepal. These FIs not only provided the financial products and services but also graciously accommodated and supported the research agenda in YouthSave.

We also thank the consortium partnership in YouthSave. We are grateful to Save the Children (SC) for managing implementation in the field and facilitating bank collaborations, New America for their work on stakeholder engagement, and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) for their attention to the business case.

We thank members of the YouthSave Research Advisory Council for their guidance and advice and especially Mark Schreiner for his assistance in developing estimated poverty rates. We appreciate the guidance of the YouthSave Expert Advisory Board for their implementation expertise. And most important of all, CSD thanks The MasterCard Foundation for their vision, dedication, partnership, and support in YouthSave.

Findings from this school banking paper was previously presented at:

Youth financial inclusion in developing countries: the potential for school banking. Presentation at the Global Perspectives on Adolescent Health and Economic Strengthening Conference: Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa, May 12, 2016.


This study was funded by Mastercard Foundation via Save the Children Subgrant No. 12401008a.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lissa Johnson.

Ethics declarations

Informed Consent

All procedures involving human participants were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committees, the 1964 Helsinki declaration, and its later amendments, or with comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from the youth and guardian (if the youth was a minor) for collection of identifiable data.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Johnson, L., Lee, Y., Njenga, G. et al. School Banking as a Strategy for Strengthening Youth Economic Participation in Developing Countries: Lessons from YouthSave. Glob Soc Welf 5, 265–275 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Youth
  • School banking
  • Savings
  • Health
  • Financial inclusion