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How can we learn whether firm policies are working in africa ? challenges (and solutions?) for experiments and structural models

  • McKenzie, David

Firm productivity is low in African countries, prompting governments to try a number of active policies to improve it. Yet despite the millions of dollars spent on these policies, we are far from a situation where we know whether many of them are yielding the desired payoffs. This paper establishes some basic facts about the number and heterogeneity of firms in different sub-Saharan African countries and discusses their implications for experimental and structural approaches towards trying to estimate firm policy impacts. It shows that the typical firm program such as a matching grant scheme or business training program involves only 100 to 300 firms, which are often very heterogeneous in terms of employment and sales levels. As a result, standard experimental designs will lack any power to detect reasonable sized treatment impacts, while structural models which assume common production technologies and few missing markets will be ill-suited to capture the key constraints firms face. Nevertheless, the author suggests a way forward which involves focusing on a more homogeneous sub-sample of firms and collecting a lot more data on them than is typically collected.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5632.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5632
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  1. McKenzie, David, 2009. "Impact assessments in finance and private sector development : what have we learned and what should we learn ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4944, The World Bank.
  2. Lars Ivar Oppedal Berge & Kjetil Bjorvatn & Bertil Tungodden, 2011. "Human and financial capital for microenterprise development: Evidence from a field and lab experiment," CMI Working Papers 1, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
  3. Fafchamps, Marcel & McKenzie, David J. & Quinn, Simon & Woodruff, Christopher, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," CEPR Discussion Papers 8466, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Nicholas Bloom & Benn Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2013. "Does Management Matter? Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 1-51.
  5. Marcel Fafchamps & Simon Quinn & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2010. "Using PDA consistency checks to increase the precision of profits and sales measurement in panels," Economics Series Working Papers CSAE WPS/2010-19, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  6. Karlan, Dean S. & Zinman, Jonathan, 2009. "Expanding Microenterprise Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts in Manila," CEPR Discussion Papers 7396, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
  8. Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2009. "In Pursuit of Balance: Randomization in Practice in Development Field Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 200-232, October.
  9. Harrison, Ann E. & Lin, Justin Yifu & Xu, Lixin Colin, 2014. "Explaining Africa’s (Dis)advantage," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 59-77.
  10. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2934, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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