Micro-entrepreneurs often lack the financial literacy required to make important financial decisions. We conducted a randomized evaluation with a bank in the Dominican Republic to compare the impact of two distinct programs: standard accounting training versus a simplified, rule-of-thumb training that taught basic financial heuristics. The rule-of-thumb training significantly improved firms' financial practices, objective reporting quality, and revenues.
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Does limited access to formal savings services impede business growth in poor countries? To shed light on this question, we randomized access to noninterest-bearing bank accounts among two types of self-employed individuals in rural Kenya: market vendors (who are mostly women) and men working as bicycle taxi drivers. Despite large withdrawal fees, a substantial share of market women used the accounts, were able to save more, and increased their productive investment and private expenditures. We see no impact for bicycle taxi drivers.
This experiment provides direct evidence on how information technologies can lead to the decentralisation of decision-making processes within organisations, and how IT solutions may represent an effective and low-cost alternative to steepening or increasing monetary incentives. Providing credit scores increased the effort committees put into solving more difficult problems, increased committees' overall output, and reduced the need for higher-level manager involvement in the decision-making process.
In the context of farming in Malawi, reducing risk did not induce an increase in demand for credit, contrary to theoretical predictions. These results highlight the difficulties in mitigating environmental risks to poor farmers and to increase investments in better technologies.
In the context of microfinance in Sri Lanka, high variance in returns may limit the willingness of banks to lend to microenterprises, but it remains a puzzle why incremental growth and reinvestment remains such a challenges as many firms have exhibited a high level of returns.