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Liability Structure in Small-Scale Finance: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

  • Fenella Carpena


    (UC Berkeley)

  • Shawn Cole


    (Harvard Business School, Finance Unit)

  • Jeremy Shapiro


    (Yale University)

  • Bilal Zia


    (World Bank)

Microfinance, the provision of small individual and business loans, has witnessed dramatic growth, reaching over 150 million borrowers worldwide. Much of its success has been attributed to overcoming the challenges of information asymmetries in uncollateralized lending. Yet, very little is known about the optimal contract structure of such loans?there is substantial variation across lenders, even within a particular setting. This paper exploits a plausibly exogenous change in the liability structure offered by a microfinance program in India, which shifted from individual to group liability lending. We find evidence that the lending model matters: for the same borrower, required monthly loan installments are 11 percent less likely to be missed under the group liability setting, relative to individual liability. In addition, compulsory savings deposits are 20 percent less likely to be missed under group liability contracts.

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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 13-018.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:13-018
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  1. repec:oup:qjecon:v:112:y:1997:i:2:p:443-77 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Ambec, Stefan & Treich, Nicolas, 2007. "Roscas as financial agreements to cope with self-control problems," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 120-137, January.
  3. Karlan, Dean & Gine, Xavier, 2009. "Group versus Individual Liability: Long Term Evidence from Philippine Microcredit Lending Groups," Working Papers 61, Yale University, Department of Economics.
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  7. Christian Ahlin & RobertM. Townsend, 2007. "Using Repayment Data to Test Across Models of Joint Liability Lending," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(517), pages F11-F51, 02.
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  9. Benjamin Feigenberg & Erica M. Field & Rohini Pande, 2010. "Building Social Capital Through MicroFinance," NBER Working Papers 16018, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Martinez Peria, Maria Soledad, 2007. "Reaching out: Access to and use of banking services across countries," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 234-266, July.
  11. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1995. "Group lending, repayment incentives and social collateral," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-18, February.
  12. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  13. Sharma, Manohar & Zeller, Manfred, 1997. "Repayment performance in group-based credit programs in Bangladesh: An empirical analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 1731-1742, October.
  14. Armendariz de Aghion, Beatriz, 1999. "On the design of a credit agreement with peer monitoring," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 79-104, October.
  15. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1990. "Peer Monitoring and Credit Markets," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 4(3), pages 351-66, September.
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