Working Papers

Micro equity for Microenterprises: Evidence from an Artefactual Field of Experiment and Survey




Economic Research Forum


October, 2019


D. Microeconomics

Access to finance is often listed as one of the most important constraints on the expansion of small firms in low-income countries. However, several recent studies reveal that most microcredit-funded businesses rarely grow beyond subsistence-level entrepreneurship. Other evidence shows that cash and capital grants have delivered high returns to some microenterprises, and that small changes to contract structure can have a long-term effect on investment and profits. In this paper, I investigate the potential of ‘microequity’ contracts, which can be viewed as lying at some point on a spectrum between credit and grants, and provide a more flexible form of capital with performance-contingent repayments and a greater sharing of risk and reward. I present results from work with two of the largest microfinance institutions in Pakistan to investigate the effects of microequity contracts on microenterprises. In the first part of the paper, I describe an artefactual field experiment, designed using a simple model of investment choice under different financial contracts. This is tested with microenterprise owners who are part of a related field experiment that provides them with shared-ownership financing to expand their business. Results reveal that equity-financed microenterprise owners chose investment options with a greater expected profit than those under debt financing, with heterogeneity analysis suggesting a larger effect for the most risk- averse individuals, who also exhibit a stronger preference for equity contracts when offered a choice. In the final part of the paper, I describe qualitative insights for why most microfinance institutions do not implement microequity products, using a field survey and manager interviews, which reveal the practical implementation challenges due to costly state verification, adverse selection into profit-sharing contracts and moral hazard caused by inappropriately-tailored sharing ratios.

Micro equity for Microenterprises: Evidence from an Artefactual Field of Experiment and Survey


Muhammad Meki

Post-doctoral research fellow in development economics at...