Finance

Alternative Service Delivery: Does Nonprofit Financing Influence State Tax Burden?

Alternative Service Delivery: Does Nonprofit Financing Influence State Tax Burden?
The American Review of Public Administration March 2013 vol. 43 no. 2 200-220, doi: 10.1177/0275074012439745

Carroll, Deborah A. and Thad Calabrese.
04/12/2012

We analyze panel data of U.S. states to determine whether nonprofit contribution and program service revenues are correlated with state tax burden. State tax burden is modeled as a function of (a) state tax policy, (b) nontax policy factors that affect state income, and (c) other exogenous factors that are independent of state tax policy and do not directly induce income; regression results reveal correlations with variables in all three categories. Intergovernmental revenue (IGR) paid to local governments, debt burden, tax exporting, a tax revenue limitation, and nonprofit revenue are most consistently correlated with state tax burden. Financial support for nonprofits in the form of contributions helps to reduce state tax burden and does so at a meaningful level. This finding implies nonprofits provide goods and services that are supplementary to government provision. However, the supplementary nature of nonprofit service provision is not universal. Further analysis of contribution and program service revenues for nonprofits in particular service categories finds either no correlation with state tax burden, a reduction in state tax burden, or an increase in tax burden imposed on state residents over time. By controlling for factors influencing demand for service provision and state tax policy changes, the regression results also provide evidence that government acts as a free rider.

Behavioral Foundations of Microcredit: Experimental and Survey Evidence from Rural India

Behavioral Foundations of Microcredit: Experimental and Survey Evidence from Rural India
American Economic Review 102 (2), April 2012: 1118-1139.

Bauer, Michal; Julie Chytilová; and Jonathan Morduch
04/01/2012

We use experimental measures of time discounting and risk aversion for villagers in south India to highlight behavioral features of microcredit, a financial tool designed to reduce poverty and fix credit market imperfections. The evidence suggests that microcredit contracts may do more than reduce moral hazard and adverse selection by imposing new forms of discipline on borrowers. We find that, conditional on borrowing from any source, women with present-biased preferences are more likely than others to borrow through microcredit institutions. Another particular contribution of microcredit may thus be to provide helpful structure for borrowers seeking self-discipline.

The Fiscal Challenge of an Aging Population in the U.S.

The Fiscal Challenge of an Aging Population in the U.S.
In The Oxford Handbook of Work and Aging, edited by Jerry W. Hedge and Walter C. Borman. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Sewin Chan
03/01/2012

This chapter examines the fiscal challenge posed by the aging of the U.S. population. We summarize the likely future of U.S. demographics, focusing on the evolution of the dependency ratio. We describe the main U.S. government programs related to aging and assess their fiscal positions. Forecasts for the unfunded liabilities in these programs exceed $40 trillion. We provide a review of economic theory useful for understanding the likely economic impact of budget deficits. We evaluate the fiscal adjustment that is likely to be needed given the 2009 status of the U.S. fiscal position and predicted demographic changes: it is likely to be approximately 8% of GDP, which, while large, is an adjustment that has been managed by many countries in the past. Finally, we provide a brief survey of potential policies to address the fiscal challenge of aging, and of economic research evaluating such policies.

Do interest rates matter? Credit demand in the Dhaka Slums

Do interest rates matter? Credit demand in the Dhaka Slums
Journal of Development Economics, 97(2): 437-449

Dehejia, Rajeev; Heather Montgomery and Jonathan Morduch
03/01/2012

“Best practice” in microfinance holds that interest rates should be set at profit-making levels, based on the belief that even poor customers favor access to finance over low fees.  Despite this core belief, little direct evidence exists on the price elasticity of credit demand in poor communities.  We examine increases in the interest rate on microfinance loans in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Using unanticipated between-branch variation in prices, we estimate interest elasticities from -0.73 to -1.04, with our preferred estimate being at the upper end of this range. Interest income earned from most borrowers fell, but interest income earned from the largest customers increased, generating overall profitability at the branch level. 

Process, Responsibility, and Myron's Law

Process, Responsibility, and Myron's Law
Chapter 12 (p. 111-23), in In the Wake of the Crisis: Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy, Olivier J. Blanchard, David Romer, A. Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz (eds.) Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.

Paul Romer
02/01/2012

In the wake of the financial crisis, any rethinking of macroeconomics has to include an examination of the rules that govern the financial system. This examination needs to take a broad view that considers the ongoing dynamics of those rules. It will not be enough to come up with a new set of specific rules that seem to work for the moment. We need a system in which the specific rules in force at any point in time evolve to keep up with a rapidly changing world.

A diverse set of examples suggests that there are workable alternatives to the legalistic, process-oriented approach that characterizes the current financial regulatory system in the United States. These alternatives give individuals responsibility for making decisions and hold them accountable. In this sense, the choice is not really between legalistic and principlebased regulation. Instead, it is between process and responsibility

Notre façon de voir la pauvreté [How we see poverty]

Notre façon de voir la pauvreté [How we see poverty]
FACTS, Special Issue 4 (Lutte contre la pauvreté), January 2012: 14-19.

Jonathan Morduch
01/01/2012

How we think about poverty is colored by how we measure it. For economists, that often means seeing poverty through quantities measured in large, representative surveys. The surveys give a comprehensive view, but favor breadth over depth. Typical economic surveys are limited in their ability to tease out informal activity, and, while they capture yearly sums, they offer little about how the year was actually lived by families. Year-long financial diaries provide a complementary way of seeing poverty, with a focus on week by week choices and challenges. The result is a re-framing of poverty and its relationship to money, calling for greater attention to financial access and a broader notion of how finance matters.

A Canary in the Mortgage Market? Why the recent FHA and GSE loan limit reductions deserve attention

A Canary in the Mortgage Market? Why the recent FHA and GSE loan limit reductions deserve attention
Furman Center White Paper

Madar, J. & Willis, M.A.
10/01/2011

On October 1, 2011, the maximum loan size eligible for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance or a guarantee from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (known as "Government-Sponsored Enterprises" or "GSEs") dropped in dozens of metropolitan areas around the country. When this change took effect, a segment of the mortgage market in each of these areas instantly lost some or all federal backing. If enough borrowers seeking loans in this segment are unable to find financing, the result will be further downward pressure on the corresponding segment of the housing market. In this report, we use recent mortgage origination data to explore some of the possible implications of this policy change for the housing market and the U.S. mortgage finance system.

Not so Fast: The Realities of Impact Investing

Not so Fast: The Realities of Impact Investing
America's Quarterly

Jonathan Morduch
09/01/2011

At the beginning of 2010, the Indian microfinance sector was a hotspot for impact investors. The promise of impact investing could be seen in the number of investors lining up to participate in the IPO of SKS Microfinance. 

SKS had ballooned from 603,000 borrowers in fiscal year 2007 to 6.8 million in fiscal year 2010.  Most were women in South Indian villages. The founder of SKS, Vikram Akula, had been saluted by Time and the World Economic Forum, and his Harvard-published memoir told the story of an “unexpected quest to end poverty through profitability.” 

But by 2011, the Indian microfinance sector was mired in bad press and political controversy.  Newspapers accused lenders of putting poor villagers in debt and causing suicides. State-level legislation in late 2010 capped interest rates and scared away equity investors.  Borrowers ceased to repay, and SKS’s share price plummeted, dipping below 200 rupees in late August 2011 (from an IPO price of 985 rupees in August 2010). As summer 2011 ended, BASIX—a pioneering competitor of SKS-- very publicly searched for funding to stay afloat.

Both the achievements and challenges in India hold lessons for impact investors. 

Impact investing has been widely touted, with microfinance as a leading example.  The temptation to attract capital by promising macro-impact at a micro-cost is difficult to resist—and India continues to be one of the most important and innovative microfinance markets. But getting the equation right is more complicated than most advocates admit.

Here are seven lessons on challenges, risks and realities drawn from three decades of microfinance ups and downs.

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