1 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE ABHIJIT BANERJEE ARUN G. CHANDRASEKHAR ESTHER DUFLO MATTHEW O. JACKSON Abstract. This paper examines how the decision to participate in a microfinance program diffuses through social networks. We collected detailed demographic and social network data in 43 villages in South India before a microfinance institution started its operation in those villages. We exploit arguably exogenous variation in the importance (in a network sense) of the people who were first informed about the program. We first show that the eventual take-up of microfinance in a village is higher when the first people to be informed have higher eigenvector centrality, a recursive measure of importance in a network. Next, we estimate several structural models of diffusion through the networks to determine the relative roles of simple information transmission versus other forms of peer influence. We find that participants are significantly more likely to pass information on to friends and acquaintances than informed non-participants, but that once informed an individual s decision is not significantly affected by the participation of her acquaintances. This specific model of information diffusion fits the data better than a model where people s decisions are simply correlated with what their network neighbors do and does a very good job in replicating the aggregate patterns found in the data. JEL Classification Codes: D85, D13, G21, L14, O12, O16, Z13 Keywords: Microfinance, Diffusion, Social Networks, Peer Effects Date: August We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the NSF under grants SES , SES and SES Chandrasekhar thanks the NSF GRFP for financial support. Daron Acemoglu and seminar participants at the Calvo-Armengol Prize Workshop, MERSIH, Stanford s Monday meetings, MIT Development lunch, and Yale provided helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank Bryan Plummer, Gowri Nagaraj, Tomas Rodriguez-Barraquer, Xu Tan, and Adam Sacarny. The Centre for Microfinance at the Institute for Financial Management and Research and BSS provided valuable assistance. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stanford University, the Santa Fe Institute, and CIFAR. 1
2 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 2 1. Introduction Information is constantly passed on through the social networks: Friends pass on both pure information (for example, about the existence of a new product exists) and opinions. While there are numerous studies documenting such phenomena, 1 few studies attempt to structurally identify the parameters of simple (competing) diffusion models. In this paper, we make use of a novel and rich data set to shed new insight on diffusion in social networks. The data includes detailed information on social networks from 75 different rural villages in southern India as well as the subsequent diffusion of microfinance participation in 43 of those villages. The data is unique for its high sampling rate ( 50% of households answered questions about their social relationships to everyone in the village), the large number of different villages for which we have observations (43 different villages to study diffusion of the same product upon), and the wealth of information on possible connections that it contains (we have data covering 13 different types of relationships, from going to the temple together to borrowing money or kerosene). By taking advantage of the substantial variation in network structure and other attributes across the villages, we are able to test alternative theories about how the diffusion of microfinance participation is affected by social structure and initial conditions. We begin by investigating the role of injection points in the diffusion of information. Specifically, if only five or ten members of a village of a thousand people are informed about microfinance opportunities, will eventual long-run participation depend on which individuals are initially contacted? While there are good reasons to think that it may be the case, the previous literature is largely silent on this topic. Analyses are generally either case studies or theoretical analyses. 2 The setting we examine is particularly favorable to examine this question. First, the diffusion of microfinance membership is well-suited. 1 The literature documenting diffusion in various case studies includes the seminal works of Ryan and Gross (1943) on the diffusion of hybrid corn adoption, of Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet (1944) on word-of-mouth influences on voting behavior, of Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) on the roles of opinion leaders in product choices, of Coleman, Katz and Menzel (1966) on connectedness of doctors and new product adoption; and now is spanned by an enormous literature that includes both empirical and theoretical analyses. For background discussion and references, see Rogers (1995), Jackson (2008), and Jackson and Yariv (2010). 2 See Jackson and Yariv (2010) for references and background.
3 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 3 Information about micro-credit access is generally spread by current members. Moreover, MFIs record administrative data that allow us to directly observe the diffusion of membership (including diffusion over time), in a way that can be matched with the network data. Second, our microfinance partner always follows the same method in informing a village about microfinance: they identify specific people in the village (teachers, self help group leaders, etc) and call these the leaders (irrespective of whether they are in fact opinion leaders in this particular village or not), inform them about the program, and ask them to invite potentially interested people to an information session. This fixed rule provides arguably exogenous variation across villages in terms of which individuals were initially contacted (we show that the network characteristics of the set of leaders is uncorrelated with any other variable at the village level). This allows us to identify whether that variation is important in the eventual microfinance participation rates. We show that eventual participation is higher villages where the first set of people to be informed were more important in a network sense (they have higher eigenvector centrality). Moreover, the importance of the leaders matter more over time, as would be expected in a model of social network diffusion. The second main contribution of the paper is that we structurally estimate a set of alternative diffusion models which incorporate both information transmission and peer influence (conditional on information). Whether or not a person participates in microfinance depends on whether they are aware of the opportunity, and may additionally depend on whether their personal friends and acquaintances participate. Diffusion models generally focus on one form of diffusion or the other, and we know of no previous study that empirically distinguishes these effects. These effects can be a challenge to distinguish since they have very similar reduced form implications (friends of informed people who take up microfinance will be more likely to take it up as well than friends of informed people who do not take up microfinance). Moreover, the network is endogenous and there tend to be strong similarities across linked individuals, which tend to correlate their decisions, which complicates identification (Manski, 1993). Does the higher take-up rates among individuals who have more friends participating than among those with fewer
4 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 4 friends participating reflect the fact that those individuals are more likely to be informed, or that they were influenced by their friends, or that they are more likely to have similar characteristics that lead to participation? By explicitly modeling the communication and decision processes as a function of the network structure and personal characteristics, we estimate these relative effects. We find that the information effects are significant, while the peer effects are not. There is a participation effect in information transmission, however: we estimate that people who do participate are five times as likely to pass information about microfinance on to their friends. Once informed, however, an individual s decisions is not influenced by the fraction of her friends who participate. We then simulate the take up that would be expected in each of our village if microfinance diffused according to our model, and run simulated data the same cross-sectional (village-level) adoption regression that we ran with the real data. The model does an extremely good job at replicating these patterns, including the fact that we find, in the real as well as in the simulated data, little correlation between the characteristics of the network and the eventual take up of microfinance. The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. In section 2 we provide background about our data. Section 3 outlines our conceptual framework. Section 4 contains a reduced form analysis of how network properties and initial injection points correlate with microfinance participation. In section 5 we present and structurally estimate a series of diffusion models to distinguish the effects of information transmission, peer influence, and simple distance, on patterns of microfinance participation. Section 6 concludes. 2. Background and Data This paper studies the diffusion of a the decision to participate in the program of Bharatha Swamukti Samsthe (BSS), a microfinance institution (MFI) in rural southern Karnataka. 3 3 The villages we study are located within 2 to 3 hours driving distance from Bangalore, the State s capital and India s software hub.
5 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 5 BSS operates a conventional group-based microcredit program: borrowers form group of 5 women who are jointly liable for their loans. The starting loan is about 10,000 rupees and is reimbursed in 50 weekly installment. The interested rate is 15 to 18%. When BSS first starts working in a village, it seeks out a number of pre-defined leaders, known in this cultural context to be influential in the village: teachers, leaders of self-help groups, shop keepers, priests, social workers, and members of the local administration (Gram Panchayat, or GP). BSS holds a first, private meeting with the leaders: at this meeting, credit officers explain the program to them, and then ask them to help organize a meeting to present microfinance to the village and to spread the word about microfinance among their friends. These leaders play an important part in our identification strategy, since they are known injection points for microfinance in the village. After that, interested eligible people (women between 18 and 57 years) contact BSS, are trained and form into groups, and credit disbursements start. At the beginning of the project, BSS provided us with a list of 75 villages where they were planning to start their operations within about six months. Prior to BSS s entry, these villages had almost no exposure to microfinance institutions, and limited access to any form of formal credit. These villages are predominantly linguistically homogenous, and heterogenous in caste (the majority of the population is hindu, with muslim and christian minorities). Households most frequent primary occupation are agriculture (finger millet, coconuts, cabbage, mulberry, rice) and sericulture (silk worm rearing). We collected detailed data (described below) on social networks in these villages. Over time, BSS, started its operation in 43 of them (BSS had run into some operational difficulties in the mean time and was not able to expand as rapidly as they hoped). Across a number of demographic and network characteristics, BSS and non-bss villages look very similar. 4 All the analyses below focus on the 43 villages were BSS actually introduced the program. 4 The main difference seems to be in the number of households per village: households (56.17 standard deviation) and households (48.95 standard deviation).
6 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE Data. Six months prior to BSS s entry into any village (starting in 2006), we conducted a baseline survey in all 75 villages. This survey consisted of a a village questionnaires, a full census including some information on all households in the villages, and a detailed follow-up individual survey of a subsample of individuals, where information about social connections was collected. In the village questionnaire, we collected data on the village leadership, the presence of pre-existing NGOs and savings self-help groups (SHGs), as well as various geographical features (such as rivers, mountains, and roads). The household census gathered demographic information, GPS coordinates, amenities (such as roofing material, type of latrine, type of electrical access or lack thereof) for every household in the village. After the village and household modules were completed, a detailed individual survey was administered to a subsample of the individuals, stratified by religion and geographic sub-locations. Over half of the BSS-eligible households, those with females between the ages of 18 and 57, in each stratification cell were randomly sampled, and individual surveys were administered to eligible members and their spouse yielding a sample of about 46% per village. 5 The individual questionnaire gathered information such as age, sub-caste, education, language, native home, occupation. So as to not prime the villagers or raise any possible connection with BSS (who would then enter the village some time later), we did not ask for explicit financial information. Most importantly, these surveys also included a module which gathered social network data on thirteen dimensions, including which friends or relatives visit one s home, which friends or relatives the individual visits, with whom the individual goes to pray (at a temple, church, or mosque), from whom the individual would borrows money, to whom the individual would lends money, from whom the individual would borrows or lend material goods (kerosene, rice), from whom they obtain advice, and to whom they give advice. 6 5 The standard deviation is 3%. 6 Individuals were allowed to name up to eight network neighbors per category. The data exhibits almost no top-coding in that nearly no individuals named eight individuals in any single category.
7 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 7 The resulting data set is unusually rich, including networks of full villages of individuals, including more than ten types of relationships, for a large number of villages, and in a developing country context. Other papers exploiting the data include Chandrasekhar et al. (2011a), which studies the interaction between social networks and limited commitment in informal insurance settings, Jackson et al. (2011), which establishes a model of favor exchange on networks using this data as its empirical example, Chandrasekhar et al. (2011b), which analyzes the role of social networks in mediating hidden information in informal insurance settings, Breza et al. (2011), which examines the impact of social networks on behavior in trust games with third-party enforcement, and Chandrasekhar and Lewis (2011), which demonstrates the biases due to studying sampled network data using this data set as its empirical example. The data is publicly available from the project web page at the Social Networks and Microfinance project page. Finally, in the 43 villages where they started their operations, BSS provided us with regular administrative data on who had joined the program, which we matched with our demographic and social network data Network Measurement Concerns and Choices. Like in any study of social networks, we face a number of decisions on how to define and measure the networks. A first question is whether we should consider the individual or the household as the unit of analysis. In our case, the household is the natural choice, since microfinance membership is limited to one per household; so that the household level is the right conceptual unit. Second, while the networks derived from this data could be, in principle, directed, in this paper we symmetrize the data and consider an undirected graph: in other words, two people are considered to be neighbors (in a network sense) if at least one of them mentions the other as a contact % of edges are unreciprocated in the data. Moreover, 7.4% of the entries of the adjacency matrix differ across the diagonal.
8 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 8 Third, the network data enables us to construct a very rich multi-graph with many dimensions of connections between individuals. In what follows, unless otherwise specified, we consider that two people are linked if they have any relationship. 8 In summary we focus on an undirected, unweighted graph at the household level where a link is present if any relationship is. That is, we take a union of all the dimensions of relationships and define a relationship to exist between two households if any member of any of the two household names at least one of the two dimensions. Since we are interested in contact between households, any of the sorts of relationships mentioned can induce contact and so this seems to be the appropriate measurement. Finally our data involves partially observed networks, since only about half of the households were surveyed. This can induce biases in the measurement of various network statistics, and the associated regression, as discussed by Chandrasekhar and Lewis (2011). We apply analytical corrections proposed in their paper for the key network statistics under random sampling, which are shown in their work asymptotically lessen bias Descriptive Statistics. Table 1 provides some descriptive statistics. The villages have an average of 223 households. The verage take-up up rate for BSS is 18.5%, with a cross-village standard deviation of 8.4%. On average, 12% of each of the households have members designated as leaders. Leaders take up microfinance at a rate of 25% with a standard deviation of 12.5% across villages. About 21% of households are members of some SHG with a standard deviation of 8%. The average education is 4.92 standards with a standard deviation of The average fraction of general (GM) caste or other backward caste (OBC) is 0.63 with substantial cross-village heterogeneity; the standard deviation is 0.1. About 39% have access to some form of savings with a standard deviation of 10%. Leaders tend to be no older or younger than the population (with a p-value of 8 See Jackson et al. (2011) for some distinctions between the structures of favor exchange networks and other sorts of networks in these data. Here, we work with all relationships since all involve contact that enable word-of-mouth information dissemination. 9 Moreover, Chandrasekhar and Lewis (2011) apply a method of graphical reconstruction to estimate some of the regressions from this paper and correct the bias due to sampling. Their results suggest that our main results in Table 3 underestimate the impact of leader centrality on the microfinance take-up rate indicating that we are presenting a conservative result.
9 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE ), though they do tend to have more rooms in their household (2.69 as compared to 2.28 with a p-value of 0.00). Turning to network characteristics, the average degree (the average number of connections that each household has) is almost 15. The worlds are small, with an average path length of 2.2. Clustering rates are 0.26: just over a quarter of the time that some household i has connections to some households j and k, do j and k have some connection to each other. 10 Eigenvector centrality is a recursively defined notion of centrality: A household s centrality is defined to be proportional to the sum of its neighbors centrality. 11 While leaders and non leaders have comparable degree, leaders are more important in the sense of eigenvector centrality: their average eigenvector centrality is 0.07 (0.018), as opposed to 0.05 (0.009) for the village as a whole. At the village level, the 25th and 75th percentiles of the average eigenvector centrality for the population are and , while for the set of leaders they are and There is considerable variation in the eigenvector centrality of the leaders from village to village, a feature we exploit below. 3. Conceptual Framework Diffusion models may be separated into two primary categories: 12. In in pure information model, the primary driver of diffusion is simply information or a mechanical transmission, as in the spread of a disease, a computer virus, or awareness of an idea or rumor. In what we call, for want of a better term, peer effects models, there are interactive effects between individuals so that an individual s behavior depends on that of his or her neighbors, as in the adoption of a new technology, human capital decisions, and other decisions with strategic complementarities. The dependency may in principle be positive (for example what other people did conveys a signal about the quality of the product, as 10 This is substantially higher than the fraction that would be expected in a network where links are assigned uniformly at random but with the same average degree, which in this case would be on the order of one in fifteen. Such a significant difference between observed clustering and that expected in a uniformly random network is typical of many observed social networks (e.g., see Jackson (2008)). 11 It corresponds to the i th entry of the eigenvector corresponding to the maximal eigenvalue of the adjacency matrix, normalized so that the entries sum to one across the vector. 12 See Jackson and Yariv (2010) for a recent overview of the literature and additional background.
10 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 10 in Banerjee (1992)) or negative (for example, because when my neighbor take microcredit up, they may share the proceeds with me, as in Kinnan and Townsend (2010)). There is little formal theory or empirical work that incorporates both types of diffusion and distinguishes between them. 13 Because the reduced form implications of these different types of diffusion are quite similar, without explicit modeling of information transmission and participation decisions, it can be impossible to distinguish whether, for instance, an individual who has more friends who participates is more likely to participate because they were more likely to hear about it or because they are influenced by the numbers of their friends who participate. In this section, we propose simple models of the diffusion of microfinance that incorporate both the diffusion of information and the potential peer effects. that are adapted to our setting. We then discuss plausible reduced from implications of such models, specifically, concerning the potential impacts of injection points (the first people who were informed about a program), and difference in take up in some villages compared to others. The bulk of our analysis will however be a structural estimation of such models The models. The models that we estimate have a common structure, illustrated in Figures 1 to 5. They are discrete time models, described as follows. BSS informs the set of initial leaders. The leaders then decide whether or not to participate. In figure 1, one leader has decided to participate, and the other has not. In each period, households that are informed pass information to their neighbors, with some probability (which may differ depending on their choice to participate). In figure 2, the household that does not participate informs one link and the other informs three. In each period, households who were informed in the previous period decide (once and for all) whether or not to participate, depending on their characteristics and (potentially) on their neighbor s choices as well. This is illustrated in figure This is not to say that both of these aspects are not understood to be important simultaneously in diffusion, as it is clear that both can be important at the same time (e.g., see Rogers (1995)); but rather that there are no systematic attempts to model both at the same time and disentangle them.
11 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 11 The model then repeats itself. In figure 4, all the informed household pass the information again to some of their contact with some probability, and in figure 5, the newly informed nodes decide again. The process repeats for a certain number of periods (which we will estimate in the data). Specifically, let p i denote the probability that an individual who was informed last period decides to adopt microfinance (note that the decision is once and for all in the model). In the baseline version (the information models), p i (α, β) is given by (1) p i = P(participation X i ) = Λ(α + X iβ), where we allow for covariates (X i ). 14 We then enrich the model to allow the decision to participate (conditional on being informed), to depend on what others have done (the peer effects models) p E i (α, β, λ) refers to (2) p E i = P(participation X i ) = Λ(α + X iβ + λf i ), where F i is the fraction where the denominator is the number of i s neighbors who are informed i and the numerator is the number out of those who have participated in microfinance, where agents are potentially weighed by their importance in the network. 15 The other important parameters are those that govern the probability that a household informs another. In the basic model, each agent can only inform their immediate neighbor. We denote q N as the probability that an informed agent informs a given neighbor about microfinance in a round, conditional on the informed agent choosing not to participate in microfinance, and q P denote the probability that an informed agent informs a given 14 Here, Λ indicates a logistic function so that ( ) pi log = α + X 1 p iβ. i 15 In what follows we use eigenvector centrality as a measure of network importance.
12 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 12 neighbor in a round about microfinance, conditional on the newly informed agent choosing to participate in microfinance. We refer to the models as follows in terms of the parameters that apply: (1) Information Model: ( q N, q P, p i (α, β) ). (2) Information Model with Peer Effects: ( q N, q P, p E i (α, β, λ) ). We begin by discussing the reduced form implications of these models at the aggregate level: what difference would we expect in the take up of microfinance between villages that have different network characteristics? 3.2. Injection Points. A first characteristics that may differentiate the villages are the injection points, or the first villagers to be informed. The idea that injections points may matter have roots in the opinion leaders of Katz and Lazersfeld (1955), as well as measurements of key individuals based on their influence of other s behaviors (e.g., Ballester, Calvo-Armengol and Zenou (2007)), and underlie some viral marketing strategies (e.g., see Feick and Price (1987); Aral and Walker (Forthcoming)). Surprisingly, there is little theory explicitly modeling the role of injection points in information or peer effects model. However it is clear that properties of the initially informed individuals could substantially impact diffusion. Regardless of the model (information or peer effect), we conjecture that if the set of initially informed individuals in one village have a greater number of connections relative to another village, then initial information transmission could be greater, and the chance of a sustained diffusion could be higher. 16 As time goes by, and the friends of the leaders have had time to inform their own friends, we conjecture that another measure of the reach of the initial leaders, such as their eigenvector centrality would start mattering more and more. This is in line with the ideas behind eigenvector centrality, which measures an individual s centrality by weighting his or her neighbors centrality, not simply just counting degree. Moreover, if there are peer effects beyond information diffusion. the participation decisions of these leaders may also affect participation in the village. 16 For example, working with a basic SIR model the probability of the initially infected nodes interactions with others would affect the probability the spread of an infection. See Jackson (2008) for additional background on the concepts discussed in this section.
13 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 13 As described in detail below, BSS strategy of contacting the same category of people (the leaders ) when they first start working in a village provides village to village variation (which, we will argue, is plausibly exogenous) in the degrees and the eigenvector centrality of the first people to be informed. We take advantage of this variation to identify the effect of the characteristics of the initial injection points on the eventual village level take-up. We will examine whether the extent to which take-up correlates with the degree of the leaders, as well as their eigenvector centrality, and other measures of their influence. In addition, as we have take-up over time, we can also see which characteristics of the leaders correlate with earlier versus later take-up Network Characteristics. While it is important and of interest to examine how the initial seeding affects diffusion in a social network, there are other aspects of social network structure that could also matter in diffusion, and thus we also examine how take-up correlates with other network characteristics. In particular, in most any contagion model one role of network structure is fairly direct: for example, adding more links increases the likelihood of non-trivial diffusion and its extent. 17 For instance, Jackson and Rogers (2007) examine a standard SIS infection model and show that if one network is more densely connected than another in a strong sense (its degree distribution stochastically dominates the other s), then the former network will be more susceptible and have a higher infection rate. In addition, shows that how varied the degrees (number of links) are across individuals in a network can affect diffusion properties, since highly connected nodes can serve as hubs that play important roles in facilitating diffusion (see Pastor-Satorras and Vespignani (2000, Lopez-Pintado (2008), and Jackson and Rogers (2007)). In addition to the distribution of degrees within a population, there are other networks characteristics that can also matter, such as how segregated the network is. Having a network that is strongly segregated can significantly slow information flow from one portion of the network to another. This can be measured via the second eigenvalue of a 17 See Chapter 7 in Jackson (2008) for additional discussion and theoretical background.
14 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 14 stochasticized adjacency matrix describing communication on the network, as shown by Golub and Jackson (2010). To estimate the effects of variations in other aspects of network structure on takeup, we again take advantage of cross-village variation. However, for this analysis we face two substantial hurdles. First, it is not as clear that there is as much variation as needed across villages to lead to observable differences. For example, in much of the theory once one hits certain connectivity thresholds the extent of the diffusion will not be determined by network structure but by other characteristics of the nodes and their decision making. Second, while there was exogenous variation in the injection points that allowed for identification and potentially some causal inference, any variation in network structure across villages could be endogenous and correlated with other factors influencing take-up. Given these obstacles, we report the results of regressions of take-up on various network characteristics for the sake of completeness, but then we move on to our structural estimation, which allows us to identify and test effects that cannot be identified via a regression-style analysis. 4. Preliminary evidence: Do injection points and/or network structure 4.1. Injection points. matter? Identification strategy. In general, identifying the impact of the network characteristics of the first people informed with a new idea (like microfinance) is difficult for two reasons: first, even when there is data on adoption over time, most data set to not distinguish information and adoption. The first informed people may not adopt, for example. Second, an information that is first received by the most popular people in a network for example, may also spread faster for other reasons (for example, a competent marketing strategist may both identify the most central people in a network and inform them first, and then also conduct an efficient generalized information campaign).
15 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 15 In our specific case, BSS methodology of spreading the information about their program provides us with a plausible identification strategy to assess the causal effect of the network characteristics of the first people informed about microfinance. When entering a village, BSS gives instructions to its workers to contact people who fill a specific list of roles in a village (whom we have called leaders ): saving self-help group (SHG) leaders, pre-school (anganwadi) teachers, doctors, headmaster, shop owners, and municipal government (gram panchayat) members. The list of leaders to contact is fixed, and does not vary from village to village. Upon entering a village, BSS staff identify and rely on such individuals to disseminate information about microfinance and to help orchestrate the first village-wide meeting. This methodology for spreading the information helps the identification of any causal effect of the network characteristics of the first people to be informed about the product for two reasons. First, we know that they are the injection point for microfinance in the village. Second, we know that they are not selected, in a particular village, with any knowledge of this village s network characteristics or their position in the network, or with any consideration for this village s propensity to adopt microfinance. Of course, there could still be some omitted variable bias: it could still be the case that villages were leaders are, say, less important or less connected are also less likely to take up microfinance for other reasons. However, we show in Table 2 that neither the eigenvector centrality nor the degree of the leaders is correlated with many village variables. This is reassuring, as it suggests that the network characteristics of the leader sets may be considered to be exogenous. We thus regress microfinance take up on the network characteristics of the leaders (degree, and eigenvector centrality). Specifically, we estimate regressions of the form (3) y r = β 0 + β 1 ξ L r + W rδ + ɛ r
16 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 16 where y r is the average village level microfinance take-up, ξr L is a vector of network statistics for the leaders (we introduce, separately and together, degree and eigenvector centrality), W r is a vector of village level controls. Though it is likely to be endogenous, we also display specifications where we introduce the centrality of the leaders who have become microfinance members: (4) y r = β 0 + β 1 ξ L r + W rδ + ɛ r where ξ LM r is vector of the set of leaders who became microfinance members. We also explore whether the correlation pattern changes over time. For this regression, we exploit data provided by BSS about participation at several points since the introduction of the program (from 2/2007 to 12/2010 across 43 villages). As discussed above, a plausible pattern to expect is that the degree of leaders matter more initially (because they can contact people), while their importance (eigenvector centrality) would matter more later, after the information has had time to diffuse because the people they contacted were themselves more influential). To test this hypothesis, we run regressions of the following form: (5) y rt = β 0 + β 1 ξr L t + (X r t) δ + α r + α t + ɛ rt where y rt is the share of microfinance take-up in village r at period t, ξr L is the average degree and/or the average eigenvector centrality for the set of leaders and X r is a vector of village level controls, α r are village fixed effects, and α t are period fixed effects. The standard errors are clustered at the village level. As before, we also include a specification where we introduce degree and eigenvector centrality over time. This regression include village fixed effects, and is thus not biased by omitted village level characteristics. The coefficient β 1 will indicate whether degree (or eigenvector centrality) becomes less (more) correlated with take up over time Results. The results are presented in Tables 3 and 4. Basic cross sectional results are presented in Table 3: The average degree of leaders is not correlated with eventual
17 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 17 microfinance take up. However, their eigenvector centrality is. The coefficient of 1.6, in column (1), implies that when the eigenvector centrality of the set of leader is one standard deviation larger, microfinance take up is 2.7 percentage points (or 15%) larger. The results are robust to introducing degree and eigenvector centrality at the same time. They are also robust to the introduction of control variables. Interestingly, we do not find that, conditional on the centrality of the leaders as a whole, the centrality of the leaders who become members themselves is more strongly correlated with eventual take up. A potential intuition for this result is that leaders are conduits of information regardless of their eventual participation. Table 4 presents evidence on how the impacts of degree and eigenvector centrality of leaders vary over time, where a period roughly corresponds to a month (a new registration cycle in the BSS center). 18 In all specifications, we find that eigenvector centrality of the set of leaders matters significantly more over time. The point estimate in column (1), for example, suggest that, each month, a one standard deviation in the centrality of the leader set is associated with an increase in the take-up rate that is 0.37 percentage point greater. The point estimate of the the interaction between degree and time is always negative, although it is not often significant. As before, we find a perhaps counterintuitive result for the centrality of the the subset of leaders who take up: if anything, it seems that their centrality matters (relatively to that of the other leaders) less over time. Overall, this set of results is strongly suggestive that social networks play a role in the diffusion of microfinance and the people chosen by BSS to be the first to be informed are indeed important in the diffusion process. However, these reduced form results cannot shed light on the specific form that diffusion takes in the village. The theoretical models only provide very partial guidance on what reduced form pattern should be expected. Even the result that the centrality of the leaders who take up microfinance more do not seem to matter more than that of the average leaders is not necessarily proof that the model of diffusion is pure information model. To distinguish between models, we 18 There is substantial variation in a period, which may range from the matter of weeks to several months.
18 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 18 exploit individual data and our knowledge of the initial injection point (BSS leaders) to estimate structural models of information diffusion Variation in Network Structure and Diffusion. Before turning to the structural model, we next examine the correlation between village-level participation rates (measured after about a year) on a set of variables that capture network structure, including: number of households, average degree, clustering, average path length, the first eigenvalue of the adjacency matrix, and the second eigenvalue of the stochasticized adjacency matrix. We include the variables both one by one and together. 19 Table 5 presents the results, of running regression of the form (6) y r = W rβ + X rδ + ɛ r where y r is the fraction of households joining microfinance, W r is a vector of village level network covariates and X r is a vector of village level physical covariates. While there is some correlation between the network statistics and average participation in the microfinance program when they are introduced individually (some of them counterintuitive, for example, degree appears negatively correlated with take up), no variable is significant when we introduce them together. Thus, no reduced form pattern is immediately apparent in these data. However, as discussed above, it could be that we are above a threshold of connectedness where things like average degree and clustering matter for diffusion. Also, it is important to note that the correlations are at best suggestive: villages with particular network characteristics may also be more likely to take up microfinance for reasons that have nothing to do with the network, leading to downward or upwards bias. There is also a strong degree of correlation between the different network variables (see appendix tables A-1 and A-2), so that they cannot be examined independently, but, given the small number of villages, multicollinearity may obscure any relevant pattern. This may be an artifact of the lack of a very well specified functional form: theory does not offer much guidance beyond the 19 We present here the regression without control variable, but the results are very similar when we control for two variables that seem to be strongly with microfinance take up, namely participation in Self Help Groups for savings and caste structure.
19 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 19 general prediction that there should be a correlation between these network characteristics and diffusion. As we show next, a more structural approach is needed to shed light on transmission mechanism in the network. We will can then compare these reduced form patterns to those that are predicted by the model and the parameters we estimate. 5. Structural Estimation 5.1. Estimation method. As a reminder, we are seeking to estimate the following models: (1) Information Model: ( q N, q P, p i (α, β) ). (2) Information Model with Peer Effects: ( q N, q P, p E i (α, β, λ) ). The formulation of these models is in equation 1 and 2 and the full algorithm is described in Appendix B. We begin with a non-technical discussion of our estimation method. (The estimation procedure is discussed in detail in Appendix C.) We use the method of simulated moments (MSM), where we attempt to match key moments (where m emp,r denotes the vector of empirical moments for village r). We work with two sets of moments. The first set of moments exploits most of the available variation in microfinance take up: (1) Share of leaders who take up microfinance (to identify β) (2) Share of households with no neighbors taking up who take up (3) Share of households that are in the neighborhood of a leader who takes up who take up (4) Share of households that are in the neighborhood of a leader who did not take up who take up. (5) Covariance of the fraction of households taking up with the share of their neighbor that take up microfinance (6) Covariance of the fraction of household taking up with the share of second-degree neighbor that take up microfinance As we discuss in more details below, a concern with estimates based on these moments is omitted variable and endogeneity. For example, households who are near a taking leader
20 THE DIFFUSION OF MICROFINANCE 20 may take up microfinance, not beause they learn from him, but because they have a similar propensity to join. We will thus perform a series of robustness check. We described most of them below. One check is to re-estimate the model with an entirely different set of moments, which are inspired by our specific setting. These are: (1) Share of leaders who take up microfinance (to identify β) (2) Covariance of take up and minimum distance to leader (3) Variance of take up among those who are at distance one from leader (4) Variance of take up among those who are at distance two from leader For each set of moments, we first estimate β using take up decision among the set of leaders (who are known to be informed). To estimate q N, q P, λ and δ (or any subset of those in the restricted models), we proceed as follows. The parameter space Θ is discretized (henceforth we use Θ to denote the discretized parameter space) and we search over the entire set of parameters. For each possible choice of θ Θ, we simulate the model 50 times, each time letting the diffusion process proceed for enough periods to match the take up rate in that village. (On average, it runs 5 to 8 periods). For each simulation, the moments are calculated, and we then take the average over the the 50 runs, which gives us the vector of average simulated moment, which we denote m sim,r for village r. We then chose the set of parameters that minimize the criterion function, namely ( ) ( ) 1 R 1 R θ = argmin m sim,r (θ) m emp,r m sim,r (θ) m emp,r. θ Θ R R r=1 To estimate the distribution of θ, we use a simple Bayesian bootstrap algorithm, formally described in Appendix C. The bootstrap exploits the independence across villages. Specifically, for each grid point θ Θ, we compute the divergence for the r th village, d r (θ) = m sim,r (θ) m emp,r. r=1 We bootstrap the criterion function by resampling, with replacement, from the set of 43 villages. For each bootstrap sample b = 1,..., 1000 we estimate a weighted average, D b (θ) = 1 R R r=1 ωb r d r (θ). Note that our objective function
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