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

Listed author(s):
  • Lori Beaman

    ()

    (Northwestern University)

  • Dean Karlan

    ()

    (Economic Growth Center, Yale University)

  • Bram Thuysbaert

    ()

    (Ghent University)

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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File URL: http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp1043.pdf
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Paper provided by Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 1043.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2014
Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:1043
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  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. 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, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  5. 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.
  6. 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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