Discussion paper

DP16013 Serving the Underserved: Microcredit as a Pathway to Commercial Banks

We examine the impact of a large-scale microcredit expansion program on financial access and the transition of previously-unbanked borrowers to commercial banks. Using administrative data on the universe of loans from a credit register accessible to all lenders, we show that the program improved access to credit, especially in underdeveloped areas, and reduced poverty. The program also generated positive spillovers to the commercial banking sector: a sizable share of first-time borrowers switched to banks, which cream-skim less risky borrowers and grant them larger, cheaper, and longer maturity loans. Switchers have lower default risk than non-switchers and are not riskier than other bank borrowers. Switchers also obtain better loan terms from banks compared to first-time bank borrowers without a credit history. Overall, our results suggest that the microfinance sector - in the presence of a credit reference bureau accessible to all lenders - can play a critical role in screening unbanked borrowers, allowing them to build a credit history and facilitating their transition to commercial banks


Agarwal, S, T Kigabo, C Minoiu, A Silva and A Presbitero (2021), ‘DP16013 Serving the Underserved: Microcredit as a Pathway to Commercial Banks‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16013. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16013