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The Outreach and Sustainability of Microfinance: Is There a Tradeoff?

Author

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  • Bengtsson, Niklas

    () (Uppsala Center for Labor Studies)

  • Pettersson, Jan

    (Swedish Ministry of Finance)

Abstract

Both practitioners and academics posit that microfinance organizations face a tradeoff between financial performance and outreach. We designed a randomized controlled trial of a transitory interest rate subsidy to investigate this tradeoff. We find that subsidized credit substantially increases demand, although a non-trivial fraction of members abstain from borrowing even when credit is virtually free. Among those who borrow, we find no effect on default rates. Whereas the intervention is initially unpro table due to lost interest rate revenues, profits eventually catch up because subsidized clients are more likely to apply for new loans (with interest) after the subsidy is lifted. In addition, because loan-taking clients more often deposit savings in the bank, the subsidy decreases the bank's dependence on external funding. We conclude that transitory interest rate subsidies that are unpro table in the short run may improve outreach without undermining sustainability in the long run. However, outreach ultimately appears constrained by low returns to capital and weak market integration among the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Bengtsson, Niklas & Pettersson, Jan, 2012. "The Outreach and Sustainability of Microfinance: Is There a Tradeoff?," Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies 2012:18, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:uulswp:2012_018
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dehejia, Rajeev & Montgomery, Heather & Morduch, Jonathan, 2012. "Do interest rates matter? Credit demand in the Dhaka slums," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 437-449.
    2. 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.
    3. Michal Bauer & Julie Chytilova & Jonathan Morduch, 2012. "Behavioral Foundations of Microcredit: Experimental and Survey Evidence from Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 1118-1139, April.
    4. Luigi Pascali, 2016. "Banks and Development: Jewish Communities in the Italian Renaissance and Current Economic Performance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(1), pages 140-158, March.
    5. Pascaline Dupas & Jonathan Robinson, 2013. "Why Don't the Poor Save More? Evidence from Health Savings Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1138-1171, June.
    6. Beatriz Armendáriz & Ariane Szafarz, 2011. "On Mission Drift in Microfinance Institutions," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Handbook Of Microfinance, chapter 16, pages 341-366 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    7. Nava Ashraf & Dean Karlan & Wesley Yin, 2006. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 635-672.
    8. Jean-Marie Baland & Catherine Guirkinger & Charlotte Mali, 2011. "Pretending to Be Poor: Borrowing to Escape Forced Solidarity in Cameroon," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(1), pages 1-16.
    9. Morduch, Jonathan, 1999. "The role of subsidies in microfinance: evidence from the Grameen Bank," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 229-248, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karlan, Dean & Zinman, Jonathan, 2013. "Long-Run Price Elasticities of Demand for Credit: Evidence from a Countrywide Field Experiment in Mexico," Working Papers 115, Yale University, Department of Economics.
    2. Sucre Reyes, M.A., 2014. "Finance, growth and social fairness : Evidence for Latin America and Bolivia," Other publications TiSEM ad514338-1973-4ec9-b5c7-2, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    3. Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman, 2013. "Long-Run Price Elasticities of Demand for Credit: Evidence from a Countrywide Field Experiment in Mexico-Working Paper 331," Working Papers 331, Center for Global Development.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Microfinanance; Collateral; Demand for credit; Interest rate changes; Experimental methods; Randomized controlled trial; RTC;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • 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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