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

  • Bengtsson, Niklas


    (Uppsala Center for Labor Studies)

  • Pettersson, Jan

    (Swedish Ministry of Finance)

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.

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Paper provided by Uppsala University, Department of Economics in its series Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies with number 2012:18.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 30 Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:uulswp:2012_018
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Uppsala University, P. O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Phone: + 46 18 471 25 00
Fax: + 46 18 471 14 78
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  1. 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 1118-39, April.
  2. 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, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 635-672, May.
  3. Basu, Karna, 2008. "Hyperbolic discounting and the sustainability of rotational savings arrangements," MPRA Paper 20440, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Beatriz Armendariz & Ariane Szafarz, 2011. "On Mission Drift in Microfinance Institutions," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/97387, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  5. Dehejia, Rajeev & Montgomery, Heather & Morduch, Jonathan, 2005. "Do interest rates matter? credit demand in the Dhaka Slums," MPRA Paper 33146, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. 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.
  7. Luigi Pascali, 2015. "Banks and Development: Jewish Communities in the Italian Renaissance and Current Economic Performance," Working Papers 562, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  8. 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 1138-71, June.
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