Gender Bias and Credit Access

59 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2015

See all articles by Steven Ongena

Steven Ongena

University of Zurich - Department of Banking and Finance; Swiss Finance Institute; KU Leuven; NTNU Business School; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Alexander A. Popov

European Central Bank (ECB)

Date Written: July 9, 2015


This paper studies the causal effect of gender bias on access to bank credit. We extract an exogenous measure of gender bias from survey responses by descendants of US immigrants on questions about the role of women in society. We then use data on 6,000 small business firms from 17 countries and find that in countries with higher gender bias, female-owned firms are more frequently discouraged from applying for bank credit and more likely to rely on informal finance. At the same time, loan rejection rates and terms on granted loans do not vary between male and female firm owners. These results are not driven by credit risk differences between female- and male-owned firms or by any idiosyncrasies in the set of countries in our sample. Overall, the evidence suggests that in high-gender bias countries, female entrepreneurs are more likely to opt out of the loan application process, even though banks do not appear to discriminate against females that apply for credit.

Keywords: Cultural bias; Gender-based discrimination; Bank credit; Female-owned firms

JEL Classification: G21, J16, N32, Z13

Suggested Citation

Ongena, Steven R. G. and Popov, Alexander A., Gender Bias and Credit Access (July 9, 2015). ECB Working Paper No. 1822, Available at SSRN: or

Steven R. G. Ongena

University of Zurich - Department of Banking and Finance ( email )

Schönberggasse 1
Zürich, 8001

Swiss Finance Institute

c/o University of Geneva
40, Bd du Pont-d'Arve
CH-1211 Geneva 4

KU Leuven ( email )

Oude Markt 13
Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant 3000

NTNU Business School ( email )


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

Alexander A. Popov (Contact Author)

European Central Bank (ECB) ( email )

Sonnemannstrasse 22
Frankfurt am Main, 60314

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