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

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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.

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  • 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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    Cited by:

    1. Tristan Le Cotty & Elodie Maitre d'Hotel & Subervie Julie, 2019. "Inventory credit to enhance food security in Africa," CIRED Working Papers hal-02018715, HAL.
    2. 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.
    3. Flory, Jeffrey A., 2018. "Formal finance and informal safety nets of the poor: Evidence from a savings field experiment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 517-533.
    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. Janina Isabel Steinert & Ani Movsisyan & Juliane Zenker & Ute Filipiak & Yulia Shenderovich, 2016. "Protocol for a Systematic Review: Saving Promotion Interventions for Improving Saving Behaviour and Reducing Poverty in Low‐ and Middle‐Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis," Campbell Systematic Reviews, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 12(1), pages 1-58.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Steinert, Janina I. & Zenker, Juliane & Filipiak, Ute & Movsisyan, Ani & Cluver, Lucie D. & Shenderovich, Yulia, 2018. "Do saving promotion interventions increase household savings, consumption, and investments in Sub-Saharan Africa? A systematic review and meta-analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 238-256.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Burlando, Alfredo & Canidio, Andrea, 2017. "Does group inclusion hurt financial inclusion? Evidence from ultra-poor members of Ugandan savings groups," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 24-48.

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    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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