Rural Women's Access to Credit: Market Imperfections and Intrahousehold Dynamics
Summary Credit rationing studies carried out at the household level and based on responses from male heads of households present an incomplete and biased assessment of who is likely to be constrained, why they are constrained, and what is the extent of the constraints. They ignore possibly conflictive intrahousehold dynamics and assume that imperfections in rural financial markets are gender-neutral. This paper addresses both issues theoretically and empirically. The Semi-Cooperative Household model developed for this analysis formalizes the conditions under which spouses', and particularly women's, individual access to credit can be affected by their own position in the financial market as well as by intrahousehold dynamics. These notions are then explored empirically using husbands' and wives' individual perceptions of their access to credit in rural Paraguay. The most significant empirical findings of the paper are that (i) compared to men, women are more likely to be credit constrained; (ii) women's rationing status responds to a different set of factors than men's; and (iii) husbands may choose not to intermediate capital to their wives even when they are able to do so. Results from this exercise provide empirically sound support for the assumptions underlying women-targeted credit programs.
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