IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Expanding credit access: Using randomized supply decisions to estimate the impacts


  • Dean Karlan
  • Jonathan Zinman


Expanding access to commercial credit is a key ingredient of financial development strategies. There is less consensus on whether expanding access to consumer credit helps borrowers, particularly when loans are extended at high interest rates. Popular skepticism about "unproductive," "usurious" lending is fueled by research highlighting behavioral biases that may induce overborrowing. We estimate the impacts of expanding access to consumer credit at a 200% annual percentage rate (APR) using a field experiment and follow-up data collection. The randomly assigned marginal loans produced significant net benefits for borrowers across a wide range of outcomes. There is also some evidence that the loans were profitable.

Suggested Citation

  • Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2006. "Expanding credit access: Using randomized supply decisions to estimate the impacts," Natural Field Experiments 00281, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00281

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Patrick Honohan, 2004. "Financial development, growth, and poverty: how close are the links?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3203, The World Bank.
    2. Brian T. Melzer, 2011. "The Real Costs of Credit Access: Evidence from the Payday Lending Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 517-555.
    3. Paige M. Skiba & Jeremy Tobacman, 2007. "Measuring the individual-level effects of access to credit: evidence from payday loans," Proceedings 1069, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    4. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Observing Unobservables: Identifying Information Asymmetries With a Consumer Credit Field Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(6), pages 1993-2008, November.
    5. Pitt, Mark M. & Khandker, Shahidur R. & Cartwright, Jennifer, 2003. "Does micro-credit empower women : evidence from Bangladesh," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2998, The World Bank.
    6. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2008. "Lying About Borrowing," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 510-521, 04-05.
    7. Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlin & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2005. "What's Psychology Worth? A Field Experiment in the Consumer Credit Market," NBER Working Papers 11892, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1993. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 274-298, April.
    9. Ross Levine, 1997. "Financial Development and Economic Growth: Views and Agenda," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 688-726, June.
    10. David B. Gross, 2002. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(1), pages 319-347, March.
    11. Mark M. Pitt & Shahidur R. Khandker & Omar Haider Chowdhury & Daniel L. Millimet, 2003. "Credit Programs for the Poor And the Health Status of Children in Rural Bangladesh," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(1), pages 87-118, February.
    12. Ausubel, Lawrence M, 1991. "The Failure of Competition in the Credit Card Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 50-81, March.
    13. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2005. "Estimating Discount Functions with Consumption Choices over the Lifecycle," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000643, UCLA Department of Economics.
    14. Ashraf, Nava & Karlan, Dean & Yin, Wesley, 2010. "Female Empowerment: Impact of a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 333-344, March.
    15. Morduch, Jonathan, 2000. "The Microfinance Schism," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 617-629, April.
    16. Dean S. Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2008. "Credit Elasticities in Less-Developed Economies: Implications for Microfinance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 1040-1068, June.
    17. Wilson Bart J & Findlay David W. & Meehan James W. & Wellford Charissa & Schurter Karl, 2010. "An Experimental Analysis of the Demand for Payday Loans," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-31, October.
    18. Signe-Mary McKernan, 2002. "The Impact Of Microcredit Programs On Self-Employment Profits: Do Noncredit Program Aspects Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 93-115, February.
    19. Nidhiya Menon, 2004. "Consumption Smoothing in Micro Credit Programs," Development and Comp Systems 0403005, EconWPA.
    20. 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.
    21. repec:wbk:wbpubs:28956 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. repec:pri:rpdevs:morduch_microfinance_poor is not listed on IDEAS
    23. Coleman, Brett E., 1999. "The impact of group lending in Northeast Thailand," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 105-141, October.
    24. Jonathan Morduch, 1999. "The Microfinance Promise," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1569-1614, December.
    25. Angus Deaton & Salman Zaidi, 2002. "Guidelines for Constructing Consumption Aggregates for Welfare Analysis," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14101.
    26. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
    27. Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2009. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 423-423.
    28. Allen, Linda & DeLong, Gayle & Saunders, Anthony, 2004. "Issues in the credit risk modeling of retail markets," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 727-752, April.
    29. Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther, 2004. "Do Firms Want to Borrow More? Testing Credit Constraints Using a Directed Lending Program," CEPR Discussion Papers 4681, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    30. Beatriz Armendariz & Jonathan Morduch, 2007. "The Economics of Microfinance," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262512017, July.
    31. Anderson, Michael L., 2008. "Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103(484), pages 1481-1495.
    32. Bell, Clive, 1990. "Interactions between Institutional and Informal Credit Agencies in Rural India," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 4(3), pages 297-327, September.
    33. Michael A. Stegman, 2007. "Payday Lending," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 169-190, Winter.
    34. Scott Carrell & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "In Harm's Way? Payday Loan Access and Military Personnel Performance," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 27(9), pages 2805-2840.
    35. Donald P. Morgan & Michael R. Strain, 2007. "Payday holiday: how households fare after payday credit bans," Staff Reports 309, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    36. Mark M. Pitt & Shahidur R. Khandker, 1998. "The Impact of Group-Based Credit Programs on Poor Households in Bangladesh: Does the Gender of Participants Matter?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 958-996, October.
    37. Joseph P. Kaboski & Robert M. Townsend, 2005. "Policies and Impact: An Analysis of Village-Level Microfinance Institutions," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-50, March.
    38. Mark M. Pitt & Shahidur R. Khandker & Omar Haider Chowdhury & Daniel L. Millimet, 1998. "Credit Programs for the Poor and the Nutritional Status of Children in Rural Bangladesh," Working Papers 98-4, Brown University, Department of Economics, revised 16 Jan 1998.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00281. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joe Seidel). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.