Do men really have no shame?
Microfinance is one of the most commonly applied development interventions of our time. It is also one of the most gender-biased. In part, this is due to targeting. However, it might also relate to the emphasis placed by microfinance providers on group-loans. If women have a comparative advantage when it comes to functioning in groups, they might self-select into microfinance provided as group loans, while men seek alternative sources of credit. This paper explores the possibility that such a comparative advantage exists and that it relates to women’s greater propensity to feel shame and/or induce feelings of shame in others. It uses data derived from an economic experiment conducted in 12 Zimbabwean villages to test a series of hypotheses. The findings suggest that men regard others less than women when deciding how to behave; that, even after controlling for this, they are more likely to attract criticism; and that they are no less responsive than women to such shame-inducing, social sanctioning. Finally, while men are no more inclined to sanction others they are less effective than women at effecting a resultant improvement in behaviour.
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