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Saving for a (not so) Rainy Day: A Randomized Evaluation of Savings Groups in Mali

Author

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  • Beaman, Lori
  • Karlan, Dean S.
  • Thuysbaert, Bram

Abstract

High transaction and contracting costs are often thought to create credit and savings market failures in developing countries. The microfinance movement grew largely out of business process innovations and subsidies that reduced these costs. We examine an alternative approach, one that infuses no external capital and introduces no change to formal contracts: an improved “technology” for managing informal, collaborative village-based savings groups. Such groups allow, in theory, for more efficient and lower-cost loans and informal savings, and in practice have been scaled up by international non-profit organizations to millions of members. Individuals save together and then lend the accumulated funds back out to themselves. In a randomized evaluation in Mali, we find improvements in food security, consumption smoothing, and buffer stock savings. Although we do find suggestive evidence of higher agricultural output, we do not find overall higher income or expenditure. We also do not find downstream impacts on health, education, social capital, and female decision-making power. Could this have happened before, without any external intervention? Yes. That is what makes the result striking, that indeed there were no resources provided nor legal institutional changes, yet the NGO-guided, improved informal processes led to important changes for households.

Suggested Citation

  • Beaman, Lori & Karlan, Dean S. & Thuysbaert, Bram, 2014. "Saving for a (not so) Rainy Day: A Randomized Evaluation of Savings Groups in Mali," CEPR Discussion Papers 10206, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10206
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ethan Ligon & Jonathan P. Thomas & Tim Worrall, 2002. "Informal Insurance Arrangements with Limited Commitment: Theory and Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 209-244.
    2. Benjamin Feigenberg & Erica Field & Rohini Pande, 2013. "The Economic Returns to Social Interaction: Experimental Evidence from Microfinance," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1459-1483.
    3. Karna Basu, 2011. "Hyperbolic Discounting and the Sustainability of Rotational Savings Arrangements," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 143-171, November.
    4. Jeffrey R Kling & Jeffrey B Liebman & Lawrence F Katz, 2007. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 83-119, January.
    5. 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.
    6. Augsburg, Britta & de Haas, Ralph & Harmgart, Heike & Meghir, Costas, 2014. "Microfinance at the margin: Experimental evidence from Bosnia and Herzegovina," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2014-304, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    7. Mark Dean & Anja Sautmann, 2014. "Credit Constraints and the Measurement of Time Preferences," Working Papers 2014-1, Brown University, Department of Economics.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Ksoll, Christopher & Lilleør, Helene Bie & Lønborg, Jonas Helth & Rasmussen, Ole Dahl, 2016. "Impact of Village Savings and Loan Associations: Evidence from a cluster randomized trial," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 70-85.
    2. Ban,Radu & Gilligan,Michael J. & Rieger,Matthias, 2015. "Self-help groups, savings and social capital : evidence from a field experiment in Cambodia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7382, The World Bank.
    3. repec:eee:deveco:v:135:y:2018:i:c:p:517-533 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Trivelli, C. & Clausen, J. & Vargas, S., 2017. "IFAD RESEARCH SERIES 9 - Social protection and inclusive rural transformation," IFAD Research Series 280047, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
    5. Pierre Bachas & Paul Gertler & Sean Higgins & Enrique Seira, 2017. "How Debit Cards Enable the Poor to Save More," NBER Working Papers 23252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Tristan Le Cotty & Elodie Maitre d'Hotel & Subervie Julie, 2019. "Inventory credit to enhance food security in Africa," CEE-M Working Papers hal-02018715, CEE-M, Universtiy of Montpellier, CNRS, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro.
    7. repec:eee:deveco:v:134:y:2018:i:c:p:1-15 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Basu, Karna & Wong, Maisy, 2015. "Evaluating seasonal food storage and credit programs in east Indonesia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 200-216.
    9. Aggarwal, Shilpa & Francis, Eilin & Robinson, Jonathan, 2018. "Grain today, gain tomorrow: Evidence from a storage experiment with savings clubs in Kenya," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 1-15.
    10. repec:eee:deveco:v:128:y:2017:i:c:p:24-48 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. repec:eee:wdevel:v:104:y:2018:i:c:p:238-256 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    micro-savings; savings groups impact;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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