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Credit access for female firms: evidence from a survey on European SMEs


  • Maria Lucia Stefani

    () (Bank of Italy)

  • Valerio Vacca

    () (Bank of Italy)


This paper uses ECB survey data to assess whether gender matters in the small firms� financial structure and access to credit. Firms owned or managed by women (female firms) use smaller amounts and less heterogeneous sources of external finance than their male counterparts. According to statistical evidence, female firms have difficulty in accessing bank finance: on the demand side, they apply for bank loans less frequently, as they more often anticipate a rejection; on the supply side, they experience a higher rejection rate. Econometric analysis shows that these different patterns are largely explained by the characteristics (such as business size, age and sector of activity) that make female firms structurally different from those led by men, without leaving room for a significant gender effect. An additional contribution of this paper is to compare the major euro-area countries within a homogeneous framework: weak evidence of gender discrimination appears in the supply of bank loans in Germany, Italy and Spain, while some demand obstacles arise in France.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria Lucia Stefani & Valerio Vacca, 2013. "Credit access for female firms: evidence from a survey on European SMEs," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 176, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdi:opques:qef_176_13

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto F. Alesina & Francesca Lotti & Paolo Emilio Mistrulli, 2013. "Do Women Pay More For Credit? Evidence From Italy," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11, pages 45-66, January.
    2. Bellucci, Andrea & Borisov, Alexander & Zazzaro, Alberto, 2010. "Does gender matter in bank-firm relationships? Evidence from small business lending," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(12), pages 2968-2984, December.
    3. Muravyev, Alexander & Talavera, Oleksandr & Schäfer, Dorothea, 2009. "Entrepreneurs' gender and financial constraints: Evidence from international data," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 270-286, June.
    4. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Juergen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Working Papers 2096, The Field Experiments Website.
    5. Cavalluzzo, Ken S & Cavalluzzo, Linda C, 1998. "Market Structure and Discrimination: The Case of Small Businesses," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 30(4), pages 771-792, November.
    6. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Laeven, Luc & Maksimovic, Vojislav, 2006. "The determinants of financing obstacles," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 932-952, October.
    7. Verheul, I. & Thurik, R., 1999. "Start-Up Capital: Differences Between Male and Female Entrepreneurs. 'Does Gender Matter'?," Papers 9910/e, NEUHUYS - RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM.
    8. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-474, June.
    9. Susan Coleman & Alicia Robb, 2009. "A comparison of new firm financing by gender: evidence from the Kauffman Firm Survey data," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 397-411, December.
    10. Ken S. Cavalluzzo, 2002. "Competition, Small Business Financing, and Discrimination: Evidence from a New Survey," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75(4), pages 641-680, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesca Maria Cesaroni & Francesca Lotti & Paolo Emilio Mistrulli, 2013. "Female firms and banks� lending behaviour: what happened during the great recession?," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 177, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    2. AfDB AfDB, 2015. "North Africa - Working paper - Promoting North African Women’s Employment through SMEs," Working Paper Series 2321, African Development Bank.
    3. Claudia Piras & Andrea Filippo Presbitero & Roberta Rabellotti, 2013. "Definitions Matter: Measuring Gender Gaps in Firms' Access to Credit," Mo.Fi.R. Working Papers 90, Money and Finance Research group (Mo.Fi.R.) - Univ. Politecnica Marche - Dept. Economic and Social Sciences.
    4. Terrence Kairiza & Philemon Kiprono & Vengesai Magadzire, 2017. "Gender differences in financial inclusion amongst entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 259-272, January.
    5. Ioannis Giotopoulos & Alexandra Kontolaimou & Aggelos Tsakanikas, 2017. "Drivers of high-quality entrepreneurship: what changes did the crisis bring about?," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 913-930, April.
    6. Daniele Coin, 2013. "Are female entrepreneurs better payers than men?," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 186, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item


    financial structure; banking; economics of gender; small business finance;

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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