Financial Inclusion

2016
Khwaja, Asim, Rajkamal Iyer, Erzo F.P. Luttmer, and Kelly Shue. 2016. “Screening Peers Softly: Inferring the Quality of Small Borrowers.” Management Science 62 (6): 1554-1577. Publisher's Version screening_peers_softly_khwaja.pdf
Pande, Rohini, Dean Karlan, Jake Kendall, Rebecca Mann, Tavneet Suri, and Jonathan Zinman. 2016. “Research and Impacts of Digital Financial Services”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A growing body of rigorous research shows that financial services innovations can have important positive impacts on wellbeing, but also that many do not. We first describe the latest evidence on what works in financial inclusion. Second, we summarize research on key financial market failures and on products and innovations that address specific mechanisms underlying them. We conclude by highlighting open areas for future work.

working_paper_22633.pdf
2015
Callen, Michael, Joshua E. Blumenstock, Tarek Ghani, and Lucas Koepke. 2015. “Promises and Pitfalls of Mobile Money in Afghanistan: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial.” Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development. ACM. ACM. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Despite substantial interest in the potential for mobile money to positively impact the lives of the poor, little empirical evidence exists to substantiate these claims. In this paper, we present the results of a field experiment in Afghanistan that was designed to increase adoption of mobile money, and determine if such adoption led to measurable changes in the lives of the adopters. The specific intervention we evaluate is a mobile salary payment program, in which a random subset of individuals of a large firm were transitioned into receiving their regular salaries in mobile money rather than in cash.

We separately analyze the impact of this transition on both the employer and the individual employees. For the employer, there were immediate and significant cost savings; in a dangerous physical environment, they were able to effectively shift the costs of managing their salary supply chain to the mobile phone operator. For individual employees, however, the results were more ambiguous. Individuals who were transitioned onto mobile salary payments were more likely to use mobile money, and there is evidence that these accounts were used to accumulate small balances that may be indicative of savings. However, we find little consistent evidence that mobile money had an immediate or significant impact on several key indicators of individual wealth or well-being. Taken together, these results suggest that while mobile salary payments may increase the efficiency and transparency of traditional systems, in the short run the benefits may be realized by those making the payments, rather than by those receiving them.

2014
Pande, Rohini, Benjamin Feigenberg, Erica Field, Natalia Rigol, and Shayak Sarkar. 2014. “Do Group Dynamics Influence Social Capital Gains Among Microfinance Clients? Evidence From a Randomized Experiment in Urban India.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 33 (4): 932-949. journal_of_policy_analysis_vol_33_no_4_pande_2014.pdf
Hanna, Rema, and Shing-yi Wang. 2014. “Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service”.Abstract

In this paper, we demonstrate that university students who cheat on a simple task in a laboratory setting are more likely to state a preference for entering public service. Importantly, we also show that cheating on this task is predictive of corrupt behavior by real government workers, implying that this measure captures a meaningful propensity towards corruption. Students who demonstrate lower levels of prosocial preferences in the laboratory games are also more likely to prefer to enter the government, while outcomes on explicit, two-player games to measure cheating and attitudinal measures of corruption do not systematically predict job preferences. We find that a screening process that chooses the highest ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption among the applicant pool. Our findings imply that differential selection into government may contribute, in part, to corruption. They also emphasize that screening characteristics other than ability may be useful in reducing corruption, but caution that more explicit measures may offer little predictive power.

rwp13-049_-_dishonesty_in_pub_serv.pdf
Iyer, Rajkamal, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Erzo F.P. Luttmer, and Kelly Shue. 2014. “Screening peers softly: Inferring the quality of small borrowers”.Abstract

This paper examines the performance of new online lending markets that rely on non-expert individuals to screen their peers’ creditworthiness. We find that these peer lenders predict an individual’s likelihood of defaulting on a loan with 45% greater accuracy than the borrower’s exact credit score (unobserved by the lenders). Moreover, peer lenders achieve 87% of the predictive power of an econometrician who observes all standard financial information about borrowers. Screening through soft or nonstandard information is relatively more important when evaluating lower quality borrowers. Our results highlight how aggregating over the views of peers and leveraging nonstandard information can enhance lending efficiency

cid_working_paper_no._rwp13-017_khwaja_2013.pdf
2013
Pande, Rohini, Ben Feigenberg, Erica Field, John Papp, and Natalia Rigol. 2013. “Does the Classic Micro finance Model Discourage Entrepreneurship Among the Poor? Experimental Evidence from India.” American Economic Review, October 2013 103 (6): 2196-2226. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Do the repayment requirements of the classic microfinance contract inhibit investment in high-return but illiquid business opportunities among the poor? Using a field experiment, we compare the classic contract which requires that repayment begin immediately after loan disbursement to a contract that includes a two-month grace period. The provision of a grace period increased short-run business investment and long-run prots but also default rates. The results, thus, indicate that debt contracts that require early re-payment discourage illiquid risky investment and thereby limit the potential impact of microfinance on micro enterprise growth and household poverty.

review_of_economic_studies_vol_80_no_4_pande_2013.pdf
Hanna, Rema, Vivi Alatas, Abhijit Banerjee, Benjamin A Olken, Ririn Purnamasari, and Matthew Wai-Poi. 2013. “Ordeal mechanism in targeting: theory and evidence from a field experiment in Indonesia”.Abstract

This paper explores whether ordeal mechanisms can improve the targeting of aid programs to the poor ("self-targeting"). We first show that theoretically the impact of increasing ordeals is ambiguous: for example, time spent applying imposes a higher monetary cost on the rich, but may impose a higher utility cost on the poor. We examine these issues by conducting a 400-village field experiment with Indonesia’s Conditional Cash Transfer program (PKH), where eligibility is determined through an asset test. Specifically, we compare targeting outcomes from self-targeting, where villagers came to a central site to apply and take the asset test, against the status quo, an automatic enrollment system among a pool of potential candidates that the village pre-identified. Within self-targeting villages, we find that the poor are more likely to apply, even conditional on whether they would pass the asset test. Exploiting the experimental variation, we find that self-targeting leads to a much poorer group of beneficiaries than the status quo. Selftargeting also outperforms a universal asset-based automatic enrollment system that we construct using our survey data. However, while experimentally increasing the distance to the application site reduces the number of applicants, it does not differentially improve targeting. Estimating our model structurally, we show that there are large unobserved shocks in the decision to apply, and therefore increasing waiting times to 9 hours or more would be required to induce detectable additional selection. In short, ordeal mechanisms can induce self-selection, but marginally increasing the ordeal can impose additional costs on applicants without necessarily improving targeting.

cid_working_paper_no._254_hanna_2012.pdf
Hanna, Rema, Vivi Alatas, Abhijit Banerjee, Benjamin A Olken, Ririn Purnamasari, and Matthew Wai-Poi. 2013. “Does Elite Capture Matter? Local Elites and Targeted Welfare Programs in Indonesia”.Abstract

This paper investigates the impact of elite capture on the allocation of targeted government welfare programs in Indonesia, using both a high-stakes field experiment that varied the extent of elite influence and non-experimental data on a variety of existing government transfer programs. Conditional on their consumption level, there is little evidence that village elites and their relatives are more likely to receive aid programs than non-elites. Looking more closely, however, we find that this overall result masks a difference between different types of elites: those holding formal leadership positions are more likely to receive benefits, while informal leaders are actually less likely to. We show that capture by formal elites occurs during the distribution of benefits under the programs, and not during the processes when the beneficiary lists are determined by the central government. However, while elite capture exists, the welfare losses it creates appear quite small: since formal elites and their relatives are only 9 percent richer than non-elites, are at most about 8 percentage points more likely to receive benefits than non-elites, and represent at most 15 percent of the population, eliminating elite capture entirely would improve the welfare gains from these programs by less than one percent.

cid_working_paper_no._255_hanna_2013.pdf
2012
Hanna, Rema, and Leigh L Linden. 2012. “Discrimination in grading.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 4 (4): 146-168. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We report the results of an experiment that was designed to test for discrimination in grading in India. We recruited teachers to grade exams. We randomly assigned child "characteristics" (age, gender, and caste) to the cover sheets of the exams to ensure that there is no relationship between these observed characteristics and the exam quality. We find that teachers give exams that are assigned to be lower caste scores that are about 0.03 to 0.08 standard deviations lower than those that are assigned to be high caste. The teachers' behavior appears consistent with statistical discrimination.

american_economic_journal_vol_4_no_4_hanna_2012.pdf
Hanna, Rema, Vivi Alatas, Abhijit Banerjee, Arun G. Chandrasekhar, and Benjamin A. Olken. 2012. “Network Structure and the Aggregation of Information: Theory and Evidence from Indonesia”.Abstract

We use a unique data-set from Indonesia on what individuals know about the income distribution in their village to test theories such as Jackson and Rogers (2007) that link information aggregation in networks to the structure of the network. The observed patterns are consistent with a basic diffusion model: more central individuals are better informed and individuals are able to better evaluate the poverty status of those to whom they are more socially proximate. To understand what the theory predicts for cross-village patterns, we estimate a simple diffusion model using within-village variation, simulate network-level diffusion under this model for the over 600 different networks in our data, and use this simulated data to gauge what the simple diffusion model predicts for the cross-village relationship between information diffusion and network characteristics (e.g. clustering, density). The coefficients in these simulated regressions are generally consistent with relationships suggested in previous theoretical work, even though in our setting formal analytical predictions have not been derived. We then show that the qualitative predictions from the simulated model largely match the actual data in the sense that we obtain similar results both when the dependent variable is an empirical measure of the accuracy of a village’s aggregate information and when it is the simulation outcome. Finally, we consider a real-world application to community based targeting, where villagers chose which households should receive an anti-poverty program, and show that networks with better diffusive properties (as predicted by our model) differentially benefit from community based targeting policies.

cid_working_paper_no._246_hanna_2012.pdf
Pande, Rohini, Lori Beaman, Esther Duflo, and Peptia Topalava. 2012. “Female Leadership Raises Aspirations and Educational Attainment for Girls: A Policy Experiment in India.” Science 335 (6068): 582-586. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Exploiting a randomized natural experiment in India, we show that female leadership influences adolescent girls’ career aspirations and educational attainment. A 1993 law reserved leadership positions for women in randomly selected village councils. Using 8,453 surveys of adolescents aged 11-15 and their parents in 495 villages, we find that, compared to villages that were never reserved, the gender gap in aspirations closed by 25% in parents and 32% in adolescents in villages assigned to a female leader for two election cycles. The gender gap in adolescent educational attainment is erased and girls spent less time on household chores. We find no evidence of changes in young women’s labor market opportunities, suggesting that the impact of women leaders primarily reflects a role model effect.

science_vol_335_no_6068_pande_2012.pdf
Pande, Rohini, Erica Field, John Papp, and Jeanette Park. 2012. “Repayment Flexibility Can Reduce Financial Stress: A Randomized Control Trial with Microfinance clients in India.” PLoS One 7 (9): 1-7. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Financial stress is widely believed to cause health problems. However, policies seeking to relieve financial stress by limiting debt levels of poor households may directly worsen their economic well-being. We evaluate an alternative policy – increasing the repayment flexibility of debt contracts. A field experiment randomly assigned microfinance clients to a monthly or a traditional weekly installment schedule (N=200). We used cell phones to gather survey data on income, expenditure, and financial stress every 48 hours over seven weeks. Clients repaying monthly were 51 percent less likely to report feeling ‘‘worried, tense, or anxious’’ about repaying, were 54 percent more likely to report feeling confident about repaying, and reported spending less time thinking about their loan compared to weekly clients. Monthly clients also reported higher business investment and income, suggesting that the flexibility encouraged them to invest their loans more profitably, which ultimately reduced financial stress

plos_one_vol_7_no_9_pande_2012.pdf
2011
Singhal, Monica, and Erzo FP Luttmer. 2011. “Culture, Context, and the Taste for Redistribution.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 3 (1): 157-179. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Is culture an important determinant of preferences for redistribution? To separate culture from the economic and institutional environment ("context"), we relate immigrants' redistributive preferences to the average preference in their birth countries. We find a strong positive relationship that is robust to rich controls for economic factors and cannot easily be explained by selective migration. This effect is as large as that of own household income and appears stronger for those less assimilated into the destination country. Immigrants from high-preference countries are more likely to vote for more pro-redistribution parties. The effect of culture persists strongly into the second generation.

Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, Atif R. Mian, and Abid Qamar. 2011. “Bank Credit and Business Networks”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We construct the topology of business networks across the population of firms in an emerging economy, Pakistan, and estimate the value that membership in large yet diffuse networks brings in terms of access to bank credit and improving financial viability. We link two firms if they have a common director. The resulting topology includes a "giant network" that is order of magnitudes larger than the second largest network. While it displays "small world" properties and comprises 5 percent of all firms, it accesses two-thirds of all bank credit. We estimate the value of joining this giant network by exploiting "incidental" entry and exit of firms over time. Membership increases total external financing by 16.6 percent, reduces the propensity to enter financial distress by 9.5 percent, and better insures firms against industry and location shocks. Firms that join improve financial access by borrowing more from new lenders, particularly those already lending to their (new) giant-network neighbors. Network benefits also depend critically on where a firm connects to in the network and on the firm's pre-existing strength.

Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, and Atif Mian. 2011. “Rent Seeking and Corruption in Financial Markets.” Annual Review of Economics 3 (1): 579-600. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We describe recent advances in the study of rent seeking and corruption in financial markets. We outline three areas of inquiry: (a) conceptualizing rent seeking, (b) identifying rent-provision channels and their general equilibrium impact, and (c) designing feasible remedial mechanisms. We provide suggestions for making further progress in these areas and review a variety of approaches taken in the recent literature.

khwaja_a_-_rent_seeking_corruption.pdf
2010
Levy, Dan, and Jim Ohls. 2010. “Evaluation of Jamaica's PATH conditional cash transfer programme.” Journal of Development Effectiveness 2 (4): 421-441. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper summarises the findings of an evaluation of the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), a conditional cash transfer programme implemented by the Government of Jamaica. The authors find that PATH was generally implemented as intended; exhibited better targeting to the poor than other similar social assistance programmes in Jamaica; and had positive and statistically significant impacts on school attendance and number of preventive healthcare visits for children. They find no evidence, however, that PATH was able to affect longer-term outcomes such as marks, grade progression, or healthcare status.

Mian, Atif, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, and Bilal Zia. 2010. “Dollars Dollars Everywhere, Nor Any Dime to Lend: Credit Limit Constraints on Financial Sector Absorptive Capacity.” The Review of Financial Studies 23 (12): 4281-4323. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We exploit an unexpected inflow of liquidity in an emerging market to study how capital is intermediated to firms. We find that backward-looking credit limit constraints imposed by banks make it difficult for firms to borrow, despite readily available bank liquidity, healthy aggregate demand, and a sharply falling cost of capital. The resulting aggregate failure to extend and retain capital in the economy suggests that agency costs that force banks to rely on sticky balance-sheet-based credit limits prevent emerging economies from effectively intermediating capital.

2009
Khwaja, Asim Ijaz. 2009. “Can Good Projects Succeed in Bad Communities?.” Journal of Public Economics 93 (7-8): 899-916. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The lack of “social capital” is frequently given as an explanation for why communities perform poorly. Yet to what extent can project design compensate for these community-specific constraints? I address this question by examining determinants of collective success in a costly problem for developing economies — the upkeep of local public goods. It is often difficult to obtain reliable outcome measures for comparable collective tasks across well-defined communities. In order to address this I conducted detailed surveys of community-maintained infrastructure projects in Northern Pakistan. The findings show that while community-specific constraints do matter, their impact can be mitigated by better project design. Inequality, social fragmentation, and lack of leadership in the community do have adverse consequences but these can be overcome by changes in project complexity, community participation, and return distribution. Moreover, the evidence suggests that better design matters even more for communities with poorer attributes. The use of community fixed effects and instrumental variables offers a significant improvement in empirical identification over previous studies. These results provide evidence that appropriate design can enable projects to succeed even in “bad” communities.

2008
Field, Erica, and Rohini Pande. 2008. “Repayment Frequency and Default in Microfinance: Evidence From India.” Journal of the European Economic Association 6 (2-3): 501-509. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In stark contrast to bank debt contracts, most micro-finance contracts require that repayments start nearly immediately after loan disbursement and occur weekly thereafter. Even though economic theory suggests that a more flexible repayment schedule would benefit clients and potentially improve their repayment capacity, micro-finance practitioners argue that the fiscal discipline imposed by frequent repayment is critical to preventing loan default. In this paper we use data from a field experiment which randomized client assignment to a weekly or monthly repayment schedule and find no significant effect of type of repayment schedule on client delinquency or default. Our findings suggest that, among micro-finance clients who are willing to borrow at either weekly or monthly repayment schedules, a more flexible schedule can significantly lower transaction costs without increasing client default.

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