DP6180 Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions To Estimate the Impacts
Expanding credit access is a key ingredient of development strategies worldwide. Microfinance practitioners, policymakers, and donors have ambitious goals for expanding access, and seek efficient methods for implementing and evaluating expansion. There is less consensus on the role of consumer credit in expansion initiatives. Some microfinance institutions are moving beyond entrepreneurial credit and offering consumer loans. But many practitioners and policymakers are skeptical about ?unproductive? lending. These concerns are fueled by academic work highlighting behavioural biases that may induce consumers to overborrow. We estimate the impacts of a consumer credit supply expansion using a field experiment and follow-up data collection. A South African lender relaxed its risk assessment criteria by randomly approving some marginal applications it normally would have rejected. We estimate the resulting impacts using new survey data on borrower behaviour and well-being, and administrative data on loan repayment. We find that the marginal loans produced measurable benefits in the form of increased employment, reduced hunger, and reduced poverty. The marginal loans also appear to have been profitable for the lender. The results must be interpreted with caution but suggest that consumer credit expansions can be welfare-improving.