How Much Do Existing Borrowers Value Microfinance? Evidence from an Experiment on Bundling Microcredit and Insurance

33 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2014 Last revised: 9 Jan 2015

See all articles by Abhijit V. Banerjee

Abhijit V. Banerjee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD)

Richard Hornbeck

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2014

Abstract

Several recent randomized controlled trials have found only modest effects of microfinance on consumption and income. However, these studies by design estimate impacts on new clients, so these modest effects may only have been lower bounds on the gains for more-experienced borrowers and the longer-run potential for microfinance. We examine the causal impacts of microfinance on experienced borrowers, and these clients' valuation of their ongoing microfinance relationship. Our research design uses an episode during which a microfinance institution modestly increased their clients' fees in randomly selected villages in exchange for a mandatory health insurance policy (which turned out to be entirely useless due to administrative failures). Our first result is that this modest increase in fees led to a 22 percentage point (or 30%) decline in loan renewal in treatment villages, compared to control villages where the policy was not introduced. Using this randomly generated variation in microfinance participation among established microfinance borrowers, we find impacts of microfinance that are strikingly similar to the previous literature: neither business outcomes nor household consumption outcomes were affected, on average, for the most part. Consistent with some previous studies, there were some declines in an index of business outcomes and declines in durable goods purchases, but only for those clients who had a business before microfinance entered the village. By contrast, businesses that started after microfinance had entered the villages were unaffected in terms of business outcomes but enjoyed an increase in non-durable goods consumption. This heterogeneity in effects is consistent with a simple model in which durable goods are lumpy purchases. The high drop-out from microfinance further suggests that the net gains from microfinance are small for a substantial share of borrowers. Strikingly, those who had a business before microfinance are as likely to exit as other borrowers, despite suffering large losses in business earnings as a result, which raises the possibility of substantial unmeasured costs from running microfinance-funded businesses.

Suggested Citation

Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Duflo, Esther and Hornbeck, Richard, How Much Do Existing Borrowers Value Microfinance? Evidence from an Experiment on Bundling Microcredit and Insurance (September 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20477. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2496234

Abhijit V. Banerjee (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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617-253-6915 (Fax)

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) ( email )

Duke University
Durham, NC 90097
United States

Richard Hornbeck

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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