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Hoping to Win, Expected to Lose: Theory and Lessons on Micro Enterprise Development

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  • Dean Karlan
  • Ryan Knight
  • Christopher Udry

Abstract

Many basic economic theories with perfectly functioning markets do not predict the existence of the vast number of microenterprises readily observed across the world. We put forward a model that illuminates why financial and managerial capital constraints may impede experimentation, and thus limit learning about the profitability of alternative firm sizes. The model shows how lack of information about one’s own type, but willingness to experiment to learn one’s type, may lead to short-run negative expected returns to investments on average, with some outliers succeeding. To test the model we put forward first a motivating experiment from Ghana, and second a small meta-analysis of other experiments. In the Ghana experiment, we provide inputs to microenterprises, specifically financial capital (a cash grant) and managerial capital (consulting services), to catalyze adoption of investments and practices aimed towards enterprise growth. We find that entrepreneurs invest the cash, and take the advice, but both lead to lower profits on average. In the long run, they revert back to their prior scale of operations. The small meta analysis includes results from 18 other experiments in which either capital or managerial capital were relaxed, and find mixed support for this theory.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18325.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18325

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References

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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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  1. Fafchamps, Marcel; McKenzie; Quinn, Simon; Woodruff, Christopher, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 50, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  2. Christopher Udry & Santosh Anagol, 2006. "The Return to Capital in Ghana," Working Papers 932, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  3. Gabriela Calderon & Jesse M. Cunha & Giacomo De Giorgi, 2013. "Business Literacy and Development: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico," NBER Working Papers 19740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. repec:cge:warwcg:49 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Nick Bloom & Ben Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2010. "Does management matter?: evidence from India," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 36366, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  6. Mano, Yukichi & Iddrisu, Alhassan & Yoshino, Yutaka & Sonobe, Tetsushi, 2012. "How Can Micro and Small Enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa Become More Productive? The Impacts of Experimental Basic Managerial Training," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 458-468.
  7. Esther Duflo & Michael Kremer & Jonathan Robinson, 2011. "Nudging Farmers to Use Fertilizer: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2350-90, October.
  8. Bruhn, Miriam & Karlan, Dean S. & Schoar, Antoinette S, 2012. "The Impact of Consulting Services on Small and Medium Enterprises: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Mexico," CEPR Discussion Papers 8887, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Karlan, Dean & Osei-Akoto, Isaac & Osei, Robert Darko & Udry, Christopher, 2012. "Agricultural Decisions after Relaxing Credit and Risk Constraints," Working Papers 110, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  10. Britta Augsburg & Ralph De Haas & Heike Harmgart & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Microfinance at the margin: Experimental evidence from Bosnia and Herzegovina," IFS Working Papers W12/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  11. Attanasio, Orazio & Augsburg, Britta & de Haas, Ralph & Fitzsimons, Emla & Harmgart, Heike, 2014. "Group lending or individual lending? Evidence from a randomised field experiment in Mongolia," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2014-303, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  12. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Measuring microenterprise profits: Must we ask how the sausage is made?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 19-31, January.
  13. Dean Karlan & Martin Valdivia, 2011. "Teaching Entrepreneurship: Impact of Business Training on Microfinance Clients and Institutions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 510-527, May.
  14. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to capital in microenterprises : evidence from a field experiment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4230, The World Bank.
  15. Shawn Cole & Thomas Sampson & Bilal Zia, 2011. "Prices or Knowledge? What Drives Demand for Financial Services in Emerging Markets?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(6), pages 1933-1967, December.
  16. Bruhn, Miriam & Zia, Bilal, 2011. "Stimulating managerial capital in emerging markets : the impact of business and financial literacy for young entrepreneurs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5642, The World Bank.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2013. "What are we learning from business training and entrepreneurship evaluations around the developing world?," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 116, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  2. Margolis, David N., 2014. "By Choice and by Necessity: Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment in the Developing World," IZA Discussion Papers 8273, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Gabriela Calderon & Jesse M. Cunha & Giacomo De Giorgi, 2013. "Business Literacy and Development: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico," NBER Working Papers 19740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. repec:cge:warwcg:115 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Fafchamps, Marcel & McKenzie, David & Quinn, Simon & Woodruff, Christopher, 2014. "Microenterprise growth and the flypaper effect: Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 211-226.
  6. Campos, Francisco & Coville, Aidan & Fernandes, Ana M. & Goldstein, Markus & McKenzie, David, 2012. "Learning from the experiments that never happened : lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6296, The World Bank.

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