Financial services for the poor
: Essays on micro-insurance and informal groups

  • Ombeline De Bock

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Economics and Business Management


This thesis contains four independent chapters that contribute to our understanding of accessibility to financial services and, in particular, insurance coverage and risk-management mechanisms in developing countries.

Chapter one and two feature two literature reviews on the topic of micro-insurance. Micro-insurance has recently received much attention as a promising tool to protect poor individuals from important shocks. Yet, demand for novel micro-insurance products has been low, shedding doubts on the viability of micro-insurance as a useful risk-management tool. A review of more than 30 studies reveals that trust, liquidity constraints, the quality of the insurance product and behavioural constraints are the most important determinants of uptake of the insurance. The second chapter provides an overview of the current state of research on the impacts of micro-insurance, with a particular focus on methodological issues.

Chapter three and four present original work on individual participation to informal groups and social exclusion. These two chapters are based on unique first-hand data I collected in rural Rwanda. In particular, Chapter three analyses whether the presumption of inclusiveness of informal groups holds both for less wealthy individuals and non-native villagers. We find that individuals who have been particularly exposed to a traumatic event are more likely to solicit membership in groups. Less wealthy individuals tend to be absent from financial associations with the exception of groups offering insurance services. In Chapter four, I take a different perspective and examine the interplay between formalization and the degree of social connectedness in an environment of limited commitment issues. This last chapter tests whether social connectedness and rules are substitutes on real world data and discusses the mechanisms through which the effect occurs.
Date of Award26 Jan 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Namur
SupervisorCatherine Guirkinger (Supervisor), Jean-Philippe Platteau (Supervisor), Guilhem Cassan (Jury), Jean-Marie Baland (President), Markus Golstein (Jury) & Renate Hartwig (Jury)


  • microinsurance
  • financial services
  • risk management tools
  • informal groups

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