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Social connections and group banking

By Dean S. Karlan


Lending to the poor is expensive due to high screening, monitoring and enforcement costs. Group lending advocates believe lenders overcome this by harnessing social connections. Using data from FINCA-Peru, I exploit a quasi-random group formation process to find evidence of peers successfully monitoring and enforcing joint-liability loans. Individuals with stronger social connections to their fellow group members (i.e., either living closer or being of a similar culture) have higher repayment and higher savings. Furthermore, I observe direct evidence that relationships deteriorate after default, and that through successful monitoring, individuals know who to punish and who not to punish after default. Lending to the poor is a difficult task throughout the world, as attested to by the many projects that experience high default rates. Starting with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and FINCA village banking in Latin America, development policy makers have embraced group lending as a possible alternative for lenders to provide credit to the poor. Group lending typically links the fate of borrowers by stipulating that if one borrower within a group fails to repay her loan, the others in her group must repay it for her. This potentially works for a few reasons (which all rely on social connections)

Year: 2013
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