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Flexible Contract, Flexible Morale? Microcredit Design and Repayment Discipline


  • Kristina Czura
  • Anett John
  • Lisa Spantig


Recent evidence suggests that more flexible microloan repayment benefits borrowers, but lenders fear diminished repayment morale. We study repayment choices in rigid and flexible loan contracts with discretion in repayment timing. Using a lab-in-the-field experiment with 645 microcredit borrowers in the Philippines, we identify moral hazard and quantify social pressure. Payoff maximization predicts low repayment in our rigid benchmark contract, and increased repayment with flexibility. Results suggest the opposite: Repayment in the rigid contract is high, and drops substantially under flexible repayment. Social pressure decreases. Our results are consistent with a strong social norm for repayment, which is weakened by introducing flexibility. Norms, which may be inculcated by the lender, may help explain several recent puzzles in microfinance research, including high and equal repayment rates across individual and joint-liability contracts, and excessive peer pressure. Importantly, norm-driven behaviour may erode with the introduction of flexibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristina Czura & Anett John & Lisa Spantig, 2020. "Flexible Contract, Flexible Morale? Microcredit Design and Repayment Discipline," CESifo Working Paper Series 8322, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8322

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    Cited by:

    1. Benjian Wu & Yi Cui & Yushuo Jiang, 2022. "The Role of Microfinance in China’s Rural Public Health: Evidence from the Anti-Poverty Microcredit Program," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(17), pages 1-22, August.
    2. Czura, Kristina & Englmaier, Florian & Ho, Hoa & Spantig, Lisa, 2022. "Microfinance loan officers before and during Covid-19: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 152(C).

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    More about this item


    microfinance; flexible repayment; ex-post moral hazard; social norms; peer punishment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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