Financial inclusion in the digital banking age: Lessons from rural India

Ram A.M.A. Cnaan, Marquisha Lawrence Scott, H. Daniel Heist, M. S. Moodithaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the digital age, financial inclusion continues to be connected to social inclusion. While most personal financial transactions are shifting from cash currency to digital transactions, we must ensure that marginalized members of society are not unbanked and excluded from financial opportunities. Many countries are declaring their intention to transform to cashless societies. India is one such country. As a case study, we investigated rural Indian villages that declared themselves as cashless to assess the financial reality of villagers. We conducted a survey of households (N=3,159) within villages across seven Indian states. In each state, we studied a village that was officially declared cashless and a nearby comparison village. Our findings suggest that the comparison villages did as well as the cashless villages, as financial inclusion via digital banking was minimal to nonexistent. Alongside significant state variations, we found that financial literacy and online access were the best predictors of performing any digital banking activity. This study concludes with a warning against rushing toward digital banking and the formation of cashless societies, as marginalized populations may be excluded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-541
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 7 Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Financial inclusion
  • India
  • digital banking
  • exploitation
  • financial literacy
  • rural villages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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