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Can self-help groups really be self-help?

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  • Brian Greaney
  • Joseph P. Kaboski
  • Eva Van Leemput

Abstract

This paper examines a cost-reducing innovation to the delivery of "Self-Help Group" microfinance services. These groups typically rely on outside agents to found and administer the groups although funds are raised by the group members. The innovation is to have the agents earn their payment by charging membership fees rather than following the status quo in which the agents are paid by an outside organization and instead offer free services to clients. The theory we develop shows that such member- ship fees could actually improve performance without sacrificing membership, simply by mitigating an adverse selection problem. Empirically, we evaluate this innovation in East Africa using a randomized control trial. We find that privatized entrepreneurs providing the self-help group services indeed outperform their NGO-compensated coun- terparts along several dimensions. Over time, they cost the NGO less and lead more profitable groups; also, households with access to privately-delivered groups borrow and save more, invest more in businesses, and may have higher consumption. Consistent with the theory, these privatized groups attract wealthier, more business-oriented members, although they attract no fewer members.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian Greaney & Joseph P. Kaboski & Eva Van Leemput, 2013. "Can self-help groups really be self-help?," Working Papers 2013-014, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2013-014
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jessica Cohen & Pascaline Dupas, 2008. "Free Distribution or Cost-Sharing? Evidence from a Malaria Prevention Experiment," NBER Working Papers 14406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Paolo Casini & Lore Vandewalle & Zaki Wahhaj, 2017. "Public Good Provision in Indian Rural Areas: The Returns to Collective Action by Microfinance Groups," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 31(1), pages 97-128.
    3. David de Meza & David C. Webb, 1987. "Too Much Investment: A Problem of Asymmetric Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(2), pages 281-292.
    4. 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.
    5. Jessica Cohen & Pascaline Dupas, 2010. "Free Distribution or Cost-Sharing? Evidence from a Randomized Malaria Prevention Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 1-45.
    6. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Vandewalle, Lore, 2017. "The Role of Accountants in Indian Self-Help Groups: A Trade-off between Financial and Non-Financial Benefits," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 177-192.
    3. Diego A.Vera-Cossio, 2017. "Targeting Credit through Community Members," PIER Discussion Papers 78, Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research, revised Dec 2017.
    4. Emily Breza & Cynthia Kinnan, 2018. "Measuring the Equilibrium Impacts of Credit: Evidence from the Indian Microfinance Crisis," Working Papers id:12587, eSocialSciences.
    5. repec:eee:deveco:v:128:y:2017:i:c:p:24-48 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Diego A. Vera-Cossio, 2017. "Targeting credit through community members," Development Research Working Paper Series 07/2017, Institute for Advanced Development Studies.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Finance;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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