Today's selection: Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts
Abstract: Expanding credit access is a key ingredient of development strategies worldwide. Microfinance practitioners, policymakers, and donors have ambitious goals for expanding access, and seek efficient methods for implementing and evaluating expansion. There is less consensus on the role of consumer credit in expansion initiatives. Some microfinance institutions are moving beyond entrepreneurial credit and offering consumer loans. But many practitioners and policymakers are skeptical about “unproductive” lending. These concerns are fueled by academic work highlighting behavioral biases that may induce consumers to overborrow.
We estimate the impacts of a consumer credit supply expansion using a field experiment and follow-up data collection. A South African lender relaxed its risk assessment criteria by encouraging its loan officers to approve randomly selected marginal rejected applications. We estimate the resulting impacts using new survey data on applicant households and administrative data on loan repayment, as well as public credit reports one and two years later.
We find that the marginal loans produced significant benefits for borrowers across a wide range economic and well-being outcomes. We also find some evidence that the marginal loans were profitable for the Lender. The results suggest that consumer credit expansions can be welfare-improving.
Commentary: That abstract is a tad long, methinks. It also summarizes the paper nicely. This paper is also my first foray into the experimental genre. (Disclaimer: I know nothing about experiments or experimental design.)
The one other thing I found interesting was the gender split along post-loan consumption differences. Men who borrowed were extremely likely (p < 0.01) to increase their consumption in the medium run, while there was no significant impact for women.
Explanations? Sadly, the uses of the loan weren't broken down by gender, so no way to really speculate.