Are Women More Credit Constrained? Experimental Evidence on Gender and Microenterprise Returns

45 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2008

See all articles by Suresh de Mel

Suresh de Mel

University of Peradeniya

David J. McKenzie

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Christopher M. Woodruff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS)

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Abstract

In a recent randomized experiment we found mean returns to capital of between 5 and 6 percent per month in Sri Lankan microenterprises, much higher than market interest rates. But returns were found to be much higher among men than among women, and indeed were not different from zero for women. In this paper, we explore different explanations for the lower returns among female owners. We find no evidence that the gender gap is explained by differences in ability, risk aversion, or entrepreneurial attitudes. Nor do we find that differential access to unpaid family labor or social constraints limiting sales to local areas are important. We do find evidence that women invested the grants differently from men. A smaller share of the smaller grants remained in the female-owned enterprises, and men were more likely to spend the grant on working capital and women on equipment. We also find that the gender gap is largest when we compare male-dominated sectors to female-dominated sectors, although female returns are lower than male returns even for females working in the same industries as men. We then examine the heterogeneity of returns to determine whether any group of businesses owned by women benefit from easing capital constraints. The results suggest there is a large group of high-return male owners and smaller group of poor, high-ability, female owners who might benefit from more access to capital.

Keywords: microenterprises, gender, microfinance, randomized experiment

JEL Classification: O12, O16, C93

Suggested Citation

de Mel, Suresh and McKenzie, David John and Woodruff, Christopher, Are Women More Credit Constrained? Experimental Evidence on Gender and Microenterprise Returns. IZA Discussion Paper No. 3743. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1282965 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0042-7092.2007.00700.x

Suresh De Mel (Contact Author)

University of Peradeniya ( email )

University of Peradeniya
Dept of Economics & Statistics
Peradeniya
Sri Lanka
+94 81 2392622 (Phone)

David John McKenzie

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
MSN3-311
Washington, DC 20433
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Christopher Woodruff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States
858-534-0590 (Phone)
858-534-3939 (Fax)

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