We conduct randomized experiments around a large-scale financial literacy course in Mexico City to understand the reasons for low take-up among a general population, and to measure the impact of this financial education course. Our results suggest that reputational, logistical, and specific forms of behavioral constraints are not the main reasons for limited participation, and that people do respond to higher benefits from attending in the form of monetary incentives. Attending training results in a 9 percentage point increase in financial knowledge, and a 9 percentage point increase in some self-reported measures of saving, but in no impact on borrowing behavior. Administrative data suggests that any savings impact may be short-lived. Our findings indicate that this course which has served over 300,000 people and has expanded throughout Latin America has minimal impact on marginal participants, and that people are likely making optimal choices not to attend this financial education course.
We use detailed contract level data on a portfolio of 197 coffee washing stations in 18 countries to identify the sources and consequences of credit markets imperfections. Due to moral hazard, default rates increase following unanticipated increases in world coffee prices just before (but not just after) the maturity date of the contract. Strategic default is deterred by relationships with the lender and foreign buyers: the value of informal enforcement amounts to 50% of the value of the sale contract for repaying borrowers. A RDD shows that firms are credit constrained. Additional loans are used to increase input purchases from farmers rather than substituting other sources of credit. Prices paid to farmers increase implying the existence of contractual externalities along the supply chain.
The long-run price elasticity of demand for credit is a key parameter for intertemporal modeling, policy levers, and lending practice. We use randomized interest rates, offered across 80 regions by Mexico’s largest microlender, to identify a 29-month dollars-borrowed elasticity of -1.9. This elasticity increases from -1.1 in year one to -2.9 in year three. The number of borrowers is also elastic. Credit bureau data does not show evidence of crowd-out. Competitors do not respond by reducing rates, perhaps because Compartamos’ profits are unchanged. The results are consistent with multiple equilibria in loan pricing.
Business training programs are a popular policy option to try to improve the performance of enterprises around the world. The last few years have seen rapid growth in the number of evaluations of these programs in developing countries. We undertake a critical review of these studies with the goal of synthesizing the emerging lessons and understanding the limitations of the existing research and the areas in which more work is needed. We find that there is substantial heterogeneity in the length, content, and types of firms participating in the training programs evaluated. Many evaluations suffer from low statistical power, measure impacts only within a year of training, and experience problems with survey attrition and measurement of firm profits and revenues. Over these short time horizons, there are relatively modest impacts of training on survivorship of existing firms, but stronger evidence that training programs help prospective owners launch new businesses more quickly. Most studies find that existing firm owners implement some of the practices taught in training, but the magnitudes of these improvements in practices are often relatively modest. Few studies find significant impacts on profits or sales, although a couple of the studies with more statistical power have done so. Some studies have also found benefits to microfinance organizations of offering training. To date there is little evidence to help guide policymakers as to whether any impacts found come from trained firms competing away sales from other businesses versus through productivity improvements, and little evidence to guide the development of the provision of training at market prices. We conclude by summarizing some directions and key questions for future studies.
What capital is missing in developing countries? We put forward “managerial capital”, which is distinct from human capital, as a key missing form of capital in developing countries. And it has also been curiously missing in the research on growth and development. We argue in this paper that lack of managerial capital has broad implications for firm growth as well as the effectiveness of other input actors. A large literature in development economics aims to understand the impediments to firm growth, particularly small and medium enterprises. Standard growth theories have explored the importance of input factors such as capital and labor in the production function of firms and countries.