Financial inclusion: philosophical and methodological underpinnings

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Financial inclusion is broadly described as the ability of individuals and businesses to access useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. It is considered a key driver of economic growth and financial well-being. Given the significance and relevance of this topic, the purpose of this note is to critically evaluate the ontological and epistemological stance of existing research on financial inclusion. Furthermore, this note examines the influence on the research design.

Beginning with a brief description of the key concepts, this note presents a conceptual framework and substantiates the recommended philosophical paradigm through a detailed appraisal of its appropriateness, relative strengths and limitations.

Drawing from a range of philosophical worldviews, which can at times seem indistinguishable especially in finance and economics, this note proposes that objectivism with a realist approach is foundational to academic research on financial inclusion. Furthermore, this note makes recommendations with regards to research design.

This note not only presents a comprehensive assessment of the problematics and the underlying metatheoretical assumptions proposed by Cunliffe (2011) but is also, to the best of author’s knowledge, the first to highlight its relevance to the formal financial system in general and to financial inclusion in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-452
Number of pages8
JournalQualitative Research in Financial Markets
Issue number3
Early online date22 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023

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© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


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