East Asia and Pacific
Kaboski and Townsend (2005)
This paper uses variation in policies and institutional characteristics to evaluate the impacts of village-level microfinance institutions in rural Thailand. To identify impacts, we use policies related to the successful/unsuccessful provision of services as exogenous variation in effective financial intermediation. We find that institutions, particularly those with good policies, can promote asset growth, consumption smoothing and occupational mobility, and can decrease moneylender reliance. Specifically, cash-lending institutions-production credit groups and especially women's groups-are successful in providing intermediation and its benefits to members, while buffalo banks and rice banks are not. The policies identified as important to intermediation and benefits: the provision of savings services, especially pledged savings accounts; emergency services; and training and advice. Surprisingly, much publicized policies such as joint liability, default consequences, or repayment frequency had no measured impacts.
Intervention settings: Rural.
Intervention description: Credit (some training in income-generation), savings, village-level MFIs, and some use production credit groups and women's groups.
Methodology: Structural model, longitudinal dataset and moderate robustness.
Sample: Poor households.
Findings: Women's groups and pledged savings positively associated with increased job mobility. Women's groups positively affected business start-up. Positive impact of cash loans from production credit groups and women's groups on HH asset growth. Positive association of flexible and pledged savings products with less reduction of consumption. Negative effect of flexible savings on business formation and job mobility. Pledged savings weakly associated with starting a business. Weak effect of pledged savings on business formation.
Kaboski and Townsend (2009)
This paper evaluates the short-term impact of Thailand's 'Million Baht Village Fund' program, among the largest scale government microfinance iniative in the world, using pre- and post-program panel data and quasi-experimental cross-village variation in credit-per-household. We found that the village funds have increased total short-term credit, consumption, agricultural investment, income growth (from business and labor), but decreased overall asset growth. We also found a positive impact on wages, an important general equilibrium effect. The foundings are broadly consistent qualitatively with models of credit-constrained household behavior and models of intermediation and growth.
Intervention settings: Rural and peri-urban.
Intervention description: One-time government grant to establish village banks that offer credit.
Methodology: Quasiexperimental, natural experiment, panel data at HH level and moderate robustness.
Sample: 64 villages.
Findings: Positive impact on HH business and labor incomes Female-headed HHs 10% more likely to have positive and above-average business incomes. Increase in HH consumption of elastic goods (e.g. fuel, meat, dairy). Increase in HH business income. No impact on business formation or investment.
Karlan and Zinman (2011)
Microcredit institutions spend billions of dollars fighting poverty by making small loans primarily to female entrepreneurs. Proponents argue that microcredit mitigates market failures, spurs micro-enterprise growth, and boosts borrowers' well-being. We tested these hypotheses with the use of an innovative, replicable experimental design that randomly assigned individual liability microloans (of $225 on average) to 1601 individuals in the Philippines through credit scoring. After 11 to 22 months, we found evidence consistent with unmet demand at the current price (a roughly 60% annualized interest rate): Net borrowing increased in the treatment group relative to controls. However, the number of business activities and employees in the treatment group decreased relative to controls, and subjective well-being declined slightly. We also found little evidence that treatment effects were more pronounced for women. However, we did find that microloans increase ability to cope with risk, strengthen community ties, and increase access to informal credit. Thus, microcredit here may work, but through channels different from those often hypothesized by its proponents.
Intervention settings: Urban
Intervention description: Individual credit with median loan size of $220, 37% of average borrower's net monthly income. Assessed impact of offering access to individual loans to marginal clients who otherwise would have been rejected.
Sample: Less poor microentrepreneurs (incomes higher than poverty line)
Findings: Credit enabled clients to better manage economic risk. No conclusive evidence on business revenue. Negative impact on number of businesses of both women and men clients. Negative effect on the number of employees of both women and men clients.
Karlan, McConnell, Mullainathan and Zinman (2011)
We develop and test a simple model of limited attention in intertemporal choice. The model posits that individuals fully attend to consumption in all periods but fail to attend to some future lumpy expenditure opportunities. This asymmetry generates some predictions that overlap with models of present-bias. Our model also generates the unique predictions that reminders may increase saving, and that reminders will be more effective when they increase the salience of a specific expenditure. We find support for these predictions in three field experiments that randomly assign reminders to new savings account holders.
Intervention settings: Peri-urban: Western Mindanao (Philippines); Unspecified locations: Bolivia and Peru.
Intervention description: Sending monthly reminders by text message or by letter to remind individuals who had opened savings accounts and established savings goals.
Sample: Customers of savings banks.
Findings: Overall, savings were 6% higher in banks sending monthly reminders.
Kaizen for Managerial Skills Improvement in Small and Medium Enterprises: An Impact Evaluation StudySonobe, Suzuki, and Otsuka (2011)
Intervention settings: Urban.
Intervention description: KAIZEN Production management training - to reduce non-value adding operations. Multifaceted classroom training and on-site KAIZEN training. Sample received both trainings, one or the other, or none.
Methodology: RCT - Randomized invitation to participate.
Sample: 100-180 male and female firm owners with typical revenues of $200-300,000 USD per year.
Findings: Entrepreneurs in the sample knew little about standard business practices and attached low value to learning management, but the training improved participants' business practices and recognition of importance of management knowledge. Male owners 20% more likely to participate in training given invitation than females. One year older increases probability of participating by 1-2%.
Land Rights and Economic Security for Women in VietnamMenon and Rodgers (2013)
Vietnam's 1993 Land Law created a land market by granting households land-use rights which could be exchanged, leased, inherited, sold or mortgaged. This study uses quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze whether increased land titling in women's names led to discernible improvements in women's economic security and household vulnerability. Using a matched sample of households from Vietnam's 2004 and 2008 Household Living Standards Survey, we find that on balance, land-use rights held exclusively by women or jointly by couples result in several beneficial effects including higher household expenditures, more education for girls and women, less housework, and lower household vulnerability to poverty. Results from interviews conducted in Vietnam support these conclusions, with evidence that one of the main channels through which these improvements occurred is increased bargaining power within the home.
Intervention settings: Nationwide.
Intervention description: Land titling.
Methodology: Matched household-level datasets from Vietnam's 2004 and 2008 Household Living Standards Surveys (VHLSS).
Sample: 9,189 households.
Findings: Land use certification led to 5.3% higher per capita household expenditures when certificates were held by women and 3.6% higher when certificates were held by men (as compared to having no certificate). Certificates led to higher education for women, a lower proportion of women doing housework and fewer daily hours of housework. Certificates held by men and women both have an impact on poverty reduction.
The Acquisition and Diffusion of Knowledge: The Case of Pest Management Training in Farmer Field Schools, IndonesiaFeder, Murgai and Quizon (2004)
Farmer Field Schools (FFS) are an intensive training approach introduced in the last decade in many developing countries to promote knowledge and uptake of ecologically sensible production approaches, and in particular, integrated pest management which minimises pesticide use. Because of the high training cost, the viability of the program depends crucially on the effectiveness of knowledge diffusion from trained farmers to other farmers. This paper uses panel data from Indonesia to assess the extent of diffusion of knowledge regarding integrated pest management from trained farmers to other farmers. The results confirm that better knowledge leads indeed to reduced pesticide use, and that trained farmers make a modest gain in knowledge. However, there is no significant diffusion of knowledge to other farmers who reside in the same villages as the trained farmers. These results imply that revision in the training procedures and curriculum need to be considered if the FFS approach is to become viable and effective.
Intervention settings: Rural.
Intervention description: Farmer field schools.
Methodology: Difference in differences estimation.
Sample: 320 households in villages that had not yet been exposed to farmer field schools.
Findings: Modest effect of FFS on knowledge of participants. No effect on the knowledge of their neighbors.