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Borrowing and Women’s Empowerment: Does Type of Credit Matter?

  • Isabelle Agier
  • Supriya Garikipati
  • Isabelle Guérin
  • Ariane Szafarz

Poor women have complex financial lives. They borrow from a variety of sources. So far, however, research has focussed only on formal borrowing as a source of women’s empowerment. This study examines whether type of borrowing matters to women. We differentiate between ‘easy loans’ – that are easy to access and have flexible conditions – and ‘contracted loans’ – that require a contractual agreement, usually written. We examine whether type of loan matters for one dimension of women’s empowerment – their bargaining power in household decisions. We separately consider women’s role in routine and strategic decisions. Drawing on a household survey from Tamil Nadu, we find that easy loans support women’s bargaining power in household decisions, whereas contracted loans have no impact. Women rely heavily on easy loans because of their flexibility. These loans, however, are usurious and lenders are known to use coercion to elicit compliance. This suggests a niche in the market for institutional providers.

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Paper provided by ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles in its series Working Papers CEB with number 13-038.

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Length: 37 p.
Date of creation: 23 Oct 2013
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Publication status: Published by:
Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:2013/150440
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  1. Duncan Thomas, 1990. "Intra-Household Resource Allocation: An Inferential Approach," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 635-664.
  2. Esther Duflo, 2000. "Grandmothers and Granddaughters: Old Age Pension and Intra-household Allocation in South Africa," NBER Working Papers 8061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Isabelle Agier & Isabelle Guérin & Ariane Szafarz, 2012. "Child Gender and Parental Borrowing: Evidence from India," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/149094, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Agier, Isabelle & Szafarz, Ariane, 2013. "Microfinance and Gender: Is There a Glass Ceiling on Loan Size?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 165-181.
  5. Kabeer, Naila, 2001. "Conflicts Over Credit: Re-Evaluating the Empowerment Potential of Loans to Women in Rural Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 63-84, January.
  6. Rao, Smriti, 2008. "Reforms with a Female Face: Gender, Liberalization, and Economic Policy in Andhra Pradesh, India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 1213-1232, July.
  7. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert A, 1994. "Noncooperative Bargaining Models of Marriage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 132-37, May.
  8. Johnson, Susan, 2004. "Gender Norms in Financial Markets: Evidence from Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1355-1374, August.
  9. Marjorie B. McElroy, 1990. "The Empirical Content of Nash-Bargained Household Behavior," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 559-583.
  10. D'Espallier, Bert & Guérin, Isabelle & Mersland, Roy, 2011. "Women and Repayment in Microfinance: A Global Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(5), pages 758-772, May.
  11. Garikipati, Supriya, 2008. "The Impact of Lending to Women on Household Vulnerability and Women's Empowerment: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2620-2642, December.
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