DP16848 Is Digital Credit Filling a Hole or Digging a Hole? Evidence from Malawi

Author(s): Valentina Brailovskaya, Pascaline Dupas, Jonathan Robinson
Publication Date: December 2021
Keyword(s): financial literacy, Predatory lending, Randomized field experiment, Regression Discontinuity
JEL(s): D14, O12, O16
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16848

Digital credit has expanded rapidly in Africa, mostly in the form of short-term, high-interest loans offered via mobile money. Loan terms are often opaque and consumer financial literacy is low, providing opportunities for predatory lending. A regression discontinuity analysis shows no negative effect of access to digital loans on financial well-being, but the majority of borrowers fail to repay on time and incur high late fees. We randomize exposure to a short phone-based financial literacy intervention. The intervention improved knowledge and marginally improved loan repayment but increased loan demand, increasing overall default risk.