47 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2006
Date Written: June 2006
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.
Keywords: microfinance, group lending, information asymmetries, contract theory, experimental economics
JEL Classification: O12, D92, D10, D21, D82, C93
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation