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Hoping to Win, Expected to Lose: Theory and Lessons on Microenterprise Development

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  • Dean Karlan, Ryan Knight, and Christopher Udry

Abstract

We show how financial and managerial constraints impede experimentation and thus limit learning about the profitability of investments. Imperfect information about one’s own type, but willingness to experiment to learn one’s type, leads to short-run negative expected returns to investments, with some outliers succeeding. We find in an experiment that entrepreneurs invest randomized grants of cash and adopt advice from randomized grants of consulting services, but both lead to lower profits on average. In the long run, they revert back to their prior scale of operations. In a meta-analysis, results from 19 other experiments find mixed support for this theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Dean Karlan, Ryan Knight, and Christopher Udry, 2012. "Hoping to Win, Expected to Lose: Theory and Lessons on Microenterprise Development," Working Papers 312, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:312
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    Cited by:

    1. Shenoy, Ajay, 2014. "Risky Income or Lumpy Investments? Evidence on Two Theories of Under-Specialization," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4649j8k0, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    2. Robert W. Fairlie & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2015. "Behind the GATE Experiment: Evidence on Effects of and Rationales for Subsidized Entrepreneurship Training," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 125-161, May.
    3. Grimm, Michael & Paffhausen, Anna Luisa, 2015. "Do interventions targeted at micro-entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized firms create jobs? A systematic review of the evidence for low and middle income countries," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 67-85.
    4. Eduardo Nakasone & Maximo Torero, 2014. "Soap Operas for Female Micro Entrepreneur Training," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 87916, Inter-American Development Bank.
    5. David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2014. "What Are We Learning from Business Training and Entrepreneurship Evaluations around the Developing World?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 29(1), pages 48-82.
    6. David N Margolis, 2014. "By Choice and by Necessity: Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment in the Developing World," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 26(4), pages 419-436, September.
    7. Fafchamps, Marcel & McKenzie, David & Quinn, Simon & Woodruff, Christopher, 2014. "Microenterprise growth and the flypaper effect: Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 211-226.
    8. Cho, Yoonyoung & Honorati, Maddalena, 2014. "Entrepreneurship programs in developing countries: A meta regression analysis," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 110-130.
    9. Gabriela Calderón & Jesse M. Cunha & Giacomo De Giorgi, 2013. "Business Literacy and Development: Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico," Working Papers 742, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    10. Driouchi, Ahmed & Gamar, Alae, 2014. "Hofstede’s Cultural Indicators, Knowledge Economy and Entrepreneurship in Arab Countries," MPRA Paper 58731, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Baylis, Kathy & Mallory, Mindy & Songsermsawas, Tisorn, 2015. "Effects of credit and market access on farm gate prices in India," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205434, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
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    13. Yoonyoung Cho, 2015. "Entrepreneurship for the poor in developing countries," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 167-167, July.
    14. Axel Demenet, 2016. "Does Managerial Capital also Matter Among Micro and Small Firms in Developing Countries?," Working Papers DT/2016/12, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    15. Jordi Brandts & Christina Rott & Carles Solà, 2016. "Not just like starting over - Leadership and revivification of cooperation in groups," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(4), pages 792-818, December.
    16. Diether Beuermann & Maria Amelina, 2014. "Does Participatory Budgeting Improve Decentralized Public Service Delivery?," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 87095, Inter-American Development Bank.
    17. repec:eee:jjieco:v:33:y:2014:i:c:p:4-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Blouin, Arthur & Macchiavello, Rocco, 2014. "Tropical Lending: International Prices, Strategic Default and Credit Constraints among Coffee Washing Stations," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 211, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    19. Christopher Udry, 2012. "Misallocation, Growth and Financial Market Imperfections," Annual Meeting Plenary 2012-3, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    20. Campos, Francisco & Coville, Aidan & Fernandes, Ana M. & Goldstein, Markus & McKenzie, David, 2014. "Learning from the experiments that never happened: Lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 4-24.
    21. Karlan, Dean & Knight, Ryan & Udry, Christopher, 2015. "Consulting and capital experiments with microenterprise tailors in Ghana," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 281-302.
    22. Shapiro, D.A., 2015. "Microfinance and dynamic incentives," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 73-84.
    23. Berlinski, Samuel & Busso, Matias, 2017. "Challenges in educational reform: An experiment on active learning in mathematics," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 172-175.
    24. Doi, Yoko & McKenzie, David & Zia, Bilal, 2014. "Who you train matters: Identifying combined effects of financial education on migrant households," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 39-55.
    25. Laurin Janes, 2013. "Can capital grants help microenterprises reach the productivity level of SMEs? Evidence from an experiment in Sri Lanka," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2013-18, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    entrepreneurship; credit constraints; business training; consulting; managerial capital;

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General
    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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