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Building Social Capital Through Microfinance

Author

Listed:
  • Benjamin Feigenberg
  • Erica M. Field
  • Rohini Pande

    (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

Abstract

A number of development assistance programs promote community interaction as a means of building social capital. Yet, despite strong theoretical underpinnings, the role of repeat interactions in sustaining cooperation has proven difficult to identify empirically. We provide the first experimental evidence on the economic returns to social interaction in the context of microfinance. Random variation in the frequency of mandatory meetings across first-time borrower groups generates exogenous and persistent changes in clients' social ties. We show that the resulting increases in social interaction among clients more than a year later are associated with improvements in informal risk-sharing and reductions in default. A second field experiment among a subset of clients provides direct evidence that more frequent interaction increases economic cooperation among clients. Our results indicate that group lending is successful in achieving low rates of default without collateral not only because it harnesses existing social capital, as has been emphasized in the literature, but also because it builds new social capital among participants.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Feigenberg & Erica M. Field & Rohini Pande, 2010. "Building Social Capital Through Microfinance," CID Working Papers 209, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cid:wpfacu:209
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social Capital; Microfinance;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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