Contract Design, Business Growth, and Female Entrepreneurship: Evidence from Microfinance in India

Research Note
Published on 5 December 2017


Several field experiments find positive returns to grants for male and not female micro- entrepreneurs. But these analyses overlook that female entrepreneurs often reside with a male business owner. Using data from randomized trials in India, Sri Lanka and Ghana, we show that the gender gap in microenterprise performance is not due to a gap in aptitude. Instead, low average returns of female-run enterprises reflects the fact that women’s capital is typically invested into their husband’s enterprise. Household-level income gains are equivalent regardless of the grant or loan recipient’s gender.


Erica Field

Duke University

Rohini Pande

Yale University

Natalia Rigol

Harvard University