Giné, Xavier Jakiela, Pamela Karlan, Dean S. Morduch, Jonathan
Year of Publication:
Center discussion paper // Economic Growth Center 936
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. The work also provides an example of how to use framed field experiments as a methodological bridge between laboratory and field experiments.
microfinance group lending information asymmetries contract theory experimental economics