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Business Literacy and Development: Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico

  • Gabriela Calderón
  • Jesse M. Cunha
  • Giacomo De Giorgi

A large share of the poor in developing countries run small enterprises, often earning low incomes. This paper explores whether the poor performance of businesses can be explained by a lack of basic business skills. We randomized the offer of a free, 48-hour business skills course to female entrepreneurs in rural Mexico. We find that those assigned to treatment earn higher profits, have larger revenues, serve a greater number of clients, are more likely to use formal accounting techniques, and more likely to be registered with the government. Indirect treatment effects on those entrepreneurs randomized out of the program, yet living in treatment villages, are economically meaningful, yet imprecisely measured. We present a simple model of experience and learning that helps interpret our results, and consistent with the theoretical predictions, we find that “low-quality” entrepreneurs are the most likely to quit their business post-treatment, and that the positive impacts of the treatment are increasing in entrepreneurial quality.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 742.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:742
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  9. Dean Karlan & Martin Valdivia, 2006. "Teaching entrepreneurship: Impact of business training on microfinance clients and institutions," Natural Field Experiments 00282, The Field Experiments Website.
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  11. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2014. "Business training and female enterprise start-up, growth, and dynamics: Experimental evidence from Sri Lanka," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 199-210.
  12. David S. Lee, 2009. "Training, Wages, and Sample Selection: Estimating Sharp Bounds on Treatment Effects," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(3), pages 1071-1102.
  13. 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.
  14. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
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