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Returns to capital in microenterprises : evidence from a field experiment

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  • de Mel, Suresh
  • McKenzie, David
  • Woodruff, Christopher

Abstract

Small and informal firms account for a large share of employment in developing countries. The rapid expansion of microfinance services is based on the belief that these firms have productive investment opportunities and can enjoy high returns to capital if given the opportunity. However, measuring the return to capital is complicated by unobserved factors such as entrepreneurial ability and demand shocks, which are likely to be correlated with capital stock. The authors use a randomized experiment to overcome this problem and to measure the return to capital for the average microenterprise in their sample, regardless of whether they apply for credit. They accomplish this by providing cash and equipment grants to small firms in Sri Lanka, and measuring the increase in profits arising from this exogenous (positive) shock to capital stock. After controlling for possible spillover effects, the authors find the average real return to capital to be 5.7 percent a month, substantially higher than the market interest rate. They then examine the heterogeneity of treatment effects to explore whether missing credit markets or missing insurance markets are the most likely cause of the high returns. Returns are found to vary with entrepreneurial ability and with measures of other sources of cash within the household, but not to vary with risk aversion or uncertainty.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4230.

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Date of creation: 01 May 2007
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4230

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Keywords: Economic Theory&Research; Investment and Investment Climate; Microfinance; Small Scale Enterprise; Economic Growth;

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  1. Esther Duflo & Rachel Glennerster & Michael Kremer, 2006. "Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit," NBER Technical Working Papers 0333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Simeon Djankov & Edward Miguel & Yingyi Qian & Gerard Roland & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2005. "Who are Russia’s entrepreneurs?," Working Papers w0048, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
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  5. John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2007. "Using the Global Positioning System (GPS) in Household Surveys For Better Economics and Better Policy," Working Papers in Economics 07/04, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  6. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, 01.
  7. Filmer, Deon & Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
  8. Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther, 2004. "Do Firms Want to Borrow More? Testing Credit Constraints Using a Directed Lending Program," CEPR Discussion Papers 4681, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 1997. "A Theory of Trickle-Down Growth and Development," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 151-72, April.
  10. Lybbert, Travis J. & Barrett, Christopher B. & McPeak, John G. & Luseno, Winnie K., 2007. "Bayesian Herders: Updating of Rainfall Beliefs in Response to External Forecasts," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 480-497, March.
  11. Banerjee, Abhijit V. & Duflo, Esther, 2005. "Growth Theory through the Lens of Development Economics," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 473-552 Elsevier.
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  1. The new must-read paper for field experimenters
    by Chris Blattman in Chris Blattman on 2010-12-21 02:07:32
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