Credit Elasticities in Less-Developed Economies: Implications for Microcredit

57 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2007

See all articles by Dean S. Karlan

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); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Jonathan Zinman

Dartmouth College; Innovations for Poverty Action; Jameel Poverty Action Lab; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: December 6, 2006

Abstract

Policymakers often urge microfinance institutions to increase interest rates to eliminate reliance on subsidies. However, existing research provides little evidence on interest rate sensitivities in MFI target markets as well as little guidance on how to derive rates. MFI policymakers generally presume that the poor are largely insensitive to interest rates and recommend that MFIs increase interest rates without fear of diminishing access. In this working paper, CGD non-resident fellow and his co-author test the elasticity of demand for microcredit using field data from South Africa. A for-profit South African lender worked with the authors to randomize 50,000 individual interest rate direct mail offers and tracked gross revenue and repayment, allowing the authors to access the effects on the targeted access margin that interests policymakers. They also worked with the lender to explore a margin of loan contracting that has been largely ignored by academics, policy makers and practitioners: loan maturity. They found that price sensitivity increased sharply when individuals were offered a rate above their prior loan's rate. They also found that loan size is far more responsive to changes in loan maturity than to changes in interest rates. This paper is one in a series of six CGD working papers by Dean Karlan on various aspects of microfinance (Working Paper Nos. 106-111).

Suggested Citation

Karlan, Dean S. and Zinman, Jonathan, Credit Elasticities in Less-Developed Economies: Implications for Microcredit (December 6, 2006). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 110. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=981394 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.981394

Dean S. Karlan (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab ( email )

E60-246
77 Massachusetts Avenue
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Jonathan Zinman

Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-0075 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.dartmouth.edu/jzinman/

Innovations for Poverty Action

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
United States

Jameel Poverty Action Lab

E60-246
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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