World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)
University of Maryland
Dean S. Karlan
Yale University; Innovations for Poverty Action; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; New York University (NYU) - Department of Economics
Yale University Economic Growth Center Discussion Paper No. 936
Microfinance has been heralded as an effective way to address imperfections in credit markets. From a theoretical perspective, however, the success of microfinance contracts has puzzling elements. In particular, the group-based mechanisms often employed are vulnerable to free-riding and collusion, although they can also reduce moral hazard and improve selection. We created an experimental economics laboratory in a large urban market in Lima, Peru and over seven months conducted eleven different games that allow us to unpack microfinance mechanisms in a systematic way. We find that risk-taking broadly conforms to predicted patterns, but that behavior is safer than optimal. The results help to explain why pioneering microfinance institutions have been moving away from group-based contracts.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 47
Keywords: microfinance, group lending, information asymmetries, contract theory, experimental economics
JEL Classification: O12, D92, D10, D21, D82, C93working papers series
Date posted: June 28, 2006
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