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Behavioral Foundations of Microcredit: Experimental and Survey Evidence From Rural India

This paper draws a link between self-control problems and the contractual mechanisms of microcredit. We use a series of “lab experiments in the field” which were designed to elicit measures of time discounting on a sample of 573 individuals in rural Karnataka, India. Evidence from the experiments were integrated with individual survey data on the economic and financial lives of villagers. One third of participants made choices consistent with hyperbolic preferences (more impatient now than in the future), and would be made better off if they could discipline their time inconsistent preferences. While hyperbolic preferences have been often associated with saving behavior, we describe links to borrowing as well. We find that “hyperbolic” women save a lower share of their savings at home and save less in total levels. Women with hyperbolic preferences are also more likely to borrow--and to do so through microcredit institutions specifically. The finding highlights the role of the fixed and frequent installment schedule ubiquitous in microcredit contracts. While microcredit contracts are celebrated for mitigating informational asymmetries, the evidence suggests that they also offer helpful structure for people with self-discipline problems who seek to accumulate capital but who lack suitable contractual saving devices.

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Paper provided by Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies in its series Working Papers IES with number 2008/28.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2008
Date of revision: Nov 2008
Handle: RePEc:fau:wpaper:wp2008_28
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  16. Lederman, Daniel & Loayza, Norman & Menendez, Ana Maria, 2002. "Violent Crime: Does Social Capital Matter?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(3), pages 509-39, April.
  17. Elaine M. Liu, 2013. "Time to Change What to Sow: Risk Preferences and Technology Adoption Decisions of Cotton Farmers in China," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(4), pages 1386-1403, October.
  18. Dean S. Karlan, 2005. "Using Experimental Economics to Measure Social Capital And Predict Financial Decisions," Working Papers 909, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  19. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
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