THE IMPACT OF ACCESS TO FINANCE IN RURAL TAMIL NADU: EVIDENCE FROM A RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL

Principal Investigators: Rohini Pande (Harvard Kennedy School), Erica Field (Duke University)
Research Team: Iris Braun (Technical Lead), Misha Sharma (Project Manager), Priyadarshini Ganesan, Safa Khan, Divya Mary and Suraj Nair
LEAD Centre: Centre for Microfinance (CMF)
Focus Area: Credit
Project Geography: Tamil Nadu, India
Partner: Kshetriya Grameen Financial Services
Status: Ongoing

Background:

There is widespread agreement on the importance of providing financial services to the poor, to enable them to invest in income generating activities and mitigate risks associated with economic activities and unanticipated shocks. However, rigorous evidence on the impact of formal financial services on the lives of low-income households is lacking. This study undertakes an experimental evaluation of the impact of expansion of formal financial access through Kshetriya Grameen Financial Services (KGFS) operations in rural areas of Tamil Nadu, at both the household and village level. The KGFS model provides access to a broad range of products including (but not limited to) loans, savings, insurance and investment options to households using a customized wealth management approach focused on ensuring the suitability of products sold to each household’s unique financial situation.

Using a randomized controlled trial the study evaluates the impact of a financial service delivery model on four broad parameters:
     a) household economics in terms of credit and saving patterns, expenditure behaviour and other socio-economic variables of interest,
     b) agriculture related outcomes and adoption of agricultural technology inputs,
     c) health outcomes by objectively measuring the levels of stress and anaemia in the body, and
     d) contraction/expansion of social networks both at the village and household level..

The results of the study are expected to aid in the development of financial instruments targeted at rural households and inform policy on financial inclusion in India and abroad. The study is currently ongoing and is scheduled to be completed in December 2017.

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