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

  • 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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:312
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.cgdev.org

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  1. 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.
  2. Fafchamps, Marcel & McKenzie, David J. & Quinn, Simon & Woodruff, Christopher, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," CEPR Discussion Papers 8466, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2934, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Bruhn, Miriam & Karlan, Dean & Schoar, Antoinette, 2012. "The Impact of Consulting Services on Small and Medium Enterprises: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Mexico," Working Papers 100, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  5. Karlan, Dean S. & Osei, Robert & Osei-Akoto, Isaac & Udry, Christopher, 2012. "Agricultural Decisions after Relaxing Credit and Risk Constraints," CEPR Discussion Papers 9173, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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 2350-90, October.
  7. Nick Bloom & Ben Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2010. "Does management matter?: evidence from India," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 36366, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. Martin Valdivia & Dean Karlan, 2006. "Teaching Entrepreneurship: Impact of Business Training on Microfinance Clients and Institutions," Working Papers 941, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  9. Gabriela Calderon & Jesse M. Cunha & Giacomo De Giorgi, 2013. "Business Literacy and Development: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico," NBER Working Papers 19740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Anagol, Santosh & Etang, Alvin & Karlan, Dean S., 2013. "Continued Existence of Cows Disproves Central Tenets of Capitalism?," CEPR Discussion Papers 9639, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Christopher Udry & Santosh Anagol, 2006. "The Return to Capital in Ghana," Working Papers 932, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  13. Drexler, Alejandro & Fischer, Greg & Schoar, Antoinette S, 2010. "Keeping it Simple: Financial Literacy and Rules of Thumb," CEPR Discussion Papers 7994, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. 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.
  15. Mano, Yukichi & Iddrisu,, Alhassan & Yoshino, Yutaka & Sonobe, Tetsushi, 2011. "How can micro and small enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa become more productive? the impacts of experimental basic managerial training," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5755, The World Bank.
  16. 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.
  17. Britta Augsburg & Ralph De Haas & Heike Harmgart & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Microfinance, Poverty and Education," IFS Working Papers W12/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  18. 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.
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