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

Listed author(s):
  • Dean Karlan, Ryan Knight, and Christopher Udry

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.

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File URL: http://www.cgdev.org/files/1426733_file_Karlan_Knight_Udry_micro_enterprise.pdf
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Paper provided by Center for Global Development in its series Working Papers with number 312.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2012
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:312
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  1. Esther Duflo & Michael Kremer & Jonathan Robinson, 2011. "Nudging Farmers to Use Fertilizer: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2350-2390, October.
  2. Marcel Fafchamps & David McKenzie & Simon Quinn & Christopher Woodruff, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," CSAE Working Paper Series 2011-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  3. Dean Karlan & Robert Osei & Isaac Osei-Akoto & Christopher Udry, 2014. "Agricultural Decisions after Relaxing Credit and Risk Constraints," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(2), pages 597-652.
  4. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Measuring microenterprise profits: Must we ask how the sausage is made?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 19-31, January.
  5. Shawn Cole & Thomas Sampson & Bilal Zia, 2011. "Prices or Knowledge? What Drives Demand for Financial Services in Emerging Markets?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(6), pages 1933-1967, December.
  6. Orazio Attanasio & Britta Augsburg & Ralph De Haas & Emla Fitzsimons & Heike Harmgart, 2011. "Group lending or individual lending? Evidence from a randomised field experiment in Mongolia," IFS Working Papers W11/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  7. Alejandro Drexler & Greg Fischer & Antoinette Schoar, 2014. "Keeping It Simple: Financial Literacy and Rules of Thumb," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 1-31, April.
  8. Santosh Anagol & Alvin Etang & Dean Karlan, 2017. "Continued Existence of Cows Disproves Central Tenets of Capitalism?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(4), pages 583-618.
  9. Mano, Yukichi & Iddrisu, Alhassan & Yoshino, Yutaka & Sonobe, Tetsushi, 2012. "How Can Micro and Small Enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa Become More Productive? The Impacts of Experimental Basic Managerial Training," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 458-468.
  10. Nicholas Bloom & Benn Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2013. "Does Management Matter? Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 1-51.
  11. Christopher Udry & Santosh Anagol, 2006. "The Return to Capital in Ghana," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 388-393, May.
  12. Dean Karlan & Martin Valdivia, 2011. "Teaching Entrepreneurship: Impact of Business Training on Microfinance Clients and Institutions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 510-527, May.
  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. 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.
  15. Tetsushi Sonobe & Aya Suzuki & Keijiro Otsuka & Vu Hoang Nam, 2012. "KAIZEN for Managerial Skills Improvement in Small and Medium Enterprises: An Impact Evaluation Study in a knitwear cluster in Vietnam," Working Papers 29, Development and Policies Research Center (DEPOCEN), Vietnam.
  16. Britta Augsburg & Ralph De Haas & Heike Harmgart & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Microfinance, Poverty and Education," IFS Working Papers W12/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  17. Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2009. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 423-423.
  18. Bruhn, Miriam & Karlan, Dean S. & Schoar, Antoinette S, 2012. "The Impact of Consulting Services on Small and Medium Enterprises: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Mexico," CEPR Discussion Papers 8887, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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