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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
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5632
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  1. 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.
  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. Nicholas Bloom & Benn Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2011. "Does Management Matter? Evidence from India," CEP Discussion Papers dp1042, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. McKenzie, David, 2011. "Beyond baseline and follow-up : the case for more t in experiments," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5639, The World Bank.
  5. Marcel Fafchamps & David McKenzie & Simon R. Quinn & Christopher Woodruff, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," NBER Working Papers 17207, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. repec:dgr:rugggd:200258 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Harrison, Ann E. & Lin, Justin Yifu & Xu, Lixin Colin, 2014. "Explaining Africa’s (Dis)advantage," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 59-77.
  8. David McKenzie, 2010. "Impact Assessments in Finance and Private Sector Development: What Have We Learned and What Should We Learn?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 25(2), pages 209-233, August.
  9. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to capital in microenterprises : evidence from a field experiment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4230, The World Bank.
  10. 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.
  11. Bruhn, Miriam & McKenzie, David, 2008. "In pursuit of balance : randomization in practice in development field experiments," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4752, The World Bank.
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