One Thing I Know: Falling Upward
Contexts, 10(3): 84
One Thing I Know: Falling Upward
Contexts, 10(3): 84
Why Finance Matters
Science, vol. 332, 10 June 2011: 1271-1272.
Roughly one-half of the world’s adults, about 2.5 billion people, have neither a bank account nor access to semiformal financial services such as “microcredit,” the growing practice in developing nations of providing small loans, typically less than US$500, to self-employed people. But what if they did? Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, a pioneering microcredit institution, argues that this lack of financial access means that the poor, especially poor women, can’t obtain the loans they need to build their businesses and get on a path out of poverty. The idea has taken hold: In 2009, for instance, Grameen Bank served 8 million customers; its average loan balance was just $127. Worldwide, microcredit advocates now claim more than 190 million customers. Proof of concept, however, is not proof of impact. Recent studies have found that some efforts to provide small loans have produced surprisingly weak results, and in this issue, Karlan and Zinman provide more evidence that we need to rethink microcredit. Their findings, from a randomized evaluation of microcredit lending in the Philippines, adds to a handful of recent results that suggest that microcredit’s effectiveness has been overstated by studies that selectively focus on success stories.
Does Regulatory Supervision Curtail Microfinance Profitability and Outreach?
World Development 39(6): 949-965, June 2011
Cull, Robert; Asli Demirgüç-Kunt; and Jonathan Morduch
We combine two datasets to examine whether the scale of an economy’s banking system affects the profitability and outreach of microfinance institutions. We find evidence that competition matters. Greater bank penetration in the overall economy is associated with microbanks pushing toward poorer markets, as reflected in smaller average loans sizes and greater outreach to women. The evidence is particularly strong for microbanks that rely on commercial-funding, use traditional bilateral lending contracts (rather than group lending methods favored by microfinance NGOs), and take deposits. We consider plausible alternative explanations for the correlations, including relationships that run through the nature of the regulatory environment and the structure of the banking environment, but we fail to find strong support for these alternative hypotheses.
Are Land Use Planning and Congestion Pricing Mutually Supportive? Evidence From a Pilot Mileage Fee Program in Portland, OR
Journal of American Planning Association, Vol. 77, 3, 232-250
Guo, Zhan, Asha W. Agrawal & Jennifer Dill
Congestion pricing and land use planning have been proposed as two promising strategies to reduce the externalities associated with driving, including traffic congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. However, they are often viewed by their proponents as substitutive instead of complementary to each other. Using data from a pilot mileage fee program run in Portland, OR, we explored whether congestion pricing and land use planning were mutually supportive in terms of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction. We examined whether effective land use planning could reinforce the benefit of congestion pricing, and whether congestion pricing could strengthen the role of land use planning in encouraging travelers to reduce driving.
VMT data were collected over 10 months from 130 households, which were divided into two groups: those who paid a mileage charge with rates that varied by congestion level (i.e., congestion pricing) and those who paid a mileage charge with a flat structure. Using regression models to compare the two groups, we tested the effect of congestion pricing on VMT reduction across different land use patterns, and the effect of land use on VMT reduction with and without congestion pricing. With congestion pricing, the VMT reduction is greater in traditional (dense and mixed-use) neighborhoods than in suburban (single use, low-density) neighborhoods, probably because of the availability of travel alternatives in the former. Under the same land use pattern, land use attributes explain more variance of household VMT when congestion pricing is implemented, suggesting that this form of mileage fee could make land use planning a more effective mechanism to reduce VMT. In summary, land use planning and congestion pricing appear to be mutually supportive.
For policymakers considering mileage pricing, land use planning affects not only the economic viability but also the political feasibility of a pricing scheme. For urban planners, congestion pricing provides both opportunities and challenges to crafting land use policies that will reduce VMT. For example, a pricing zone that overlaps with dense, mixed-use and transit-accessible development, can reinforce the benefits of these development patterns and encourage greater behavioral changes.
Resource Allocation, Emergency Response Capability and Infrastructure Concentration Around Vulnerable Sites
First published on: 14 April 2011, forthcoming 2011, Journal of Risk Research, 18pp. doi:10.1080/13669877.2010.547257
J. S. Simonoff, C. E. Restrepo, R. Zimmerman, Z. S. Naphtali, and H. H. Willis.
Public and private decision-makers continue to seek risk-based approaches to allocate funds to help communities respond to disasters, accidents, and terrorist attacks involving critical infrastructure facilities. The requirements for emergency response capability depend both upon risks within a region's jurisdiction and mutual aid agreements that have been made with other regions. In general, regions in close proximity to infrastructure would benefit more from resources to improve preparedness because there is a greater potential for an event requiring emergency response to occur if there are more facilities at which such events could occur. Thus, a potentially important input into decisions about allocating funds for security is the proximity of a community to high concentrations of infrastructure systems that potentially could be at risk to an industrial accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack. In this paper, we describe a methodology for measuring a region's exposure to infrastructure-related risks that captures both a community's concentration of facilities or sites considered to be vulnerable and of the proximity of these facilities to surrounding infrastructure systems. These measures are based on smoothing-based nonparametric probability density estimators, which are then used to estimate the probability of the entire infrastructure occurring within any specified distance of facilities in a county. The set of facilities used in the paper to illustrate the use of this methodology consists of facilities identified as vulnerable through the California Buffer Zone Protection Program. For infrastructure in surrounding areas we use dams judged to be high hazards, and BART tracks. The results show that the methodology provides information about patterns of critical infrastructure in regions that is relevant for decisions about how to allocate terrorism security and emergency preparedness resources.
Microfinance and Social Investment
Annual Review of Financial Economics, vol. 3, ed. Robert Merton and Andrew Lo. 2011: 407-434.
Conning, J. & Morduch, J.
This paper puts a corporate finance lens on microfinance. Microfinance aims to democratize global financial markets through new contracts, organizations, and technology. We explain the roles that government agencies and socially-minded investors play in supporting the entry and expansion of private intermediaries in the sector, and we disentangle debates about competing social and commercial firm goals. We frame the analysis with theory that explains why microfinance institutions serving lower-income communities charge high interest rates, face high costs, monitor customers relatively intensively, and have limited ability to lever assets. The analysis blurs traditional dividing lines between non-profits and for-profits and places focus on the relationship between target market, ownership rights and access to external capital.
Efficient Funding: Auditing in the Nonprofit Sector
Manufacturing & Service Operations Management. 13(4) 471-488.
N. Privett and F. Erhun
Nonprofit organizations are a critical part of society as well as a growing sector of the economy. For funders there is an increasing and pressing need to ensure that society reaps the most social benefit for their money while also developing the nonprofit sector as a whole. By routinely scrutinizing nonprofit reports in an effort to deduce whether a nonprofit organization is efficient, funders may believe that they are, in fact, giving responsibly. However, we find that these nonprofit reports are unreliable, supporting a myriad of empirical research and revealing that report-based funding methods do not facilitate efficient allocation of funds. In response, we develop audit contracts that put funders in a position to enact change. Auditing, perhaps obviously, supports funders; however, we find that it also benefits the population of nonprofits. Moreover, auditing results in improved efficiency for the nonprofit sector overall. Indeed, our conclusions indicate that nonprofits may want to work with funders to increase the use of auditing, consequently increasing efficiency for the sector overall and impacting society as a whole.
Massachusetts Links Pay for Performance to the Reduction of Racial and Ethnic Disparities
Health Affairs. 30(6):1165-1175.
Blustein, Jan, Joel Weissman, Andrew M Ryan, Tim Doran and Romana Hasnain-Wynia.
The Institute of Medicaid has identified equity as a key dimension of quality. Recently, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program (MassHealth) took the unusual step of linking pay-for-performance (P4P) to the reduction of racial/ethnic disparities for hospital care. We report on early experience with the program, describing the challenges of implementing an ambitious program in a short time frame, with limited resources. Our findings raise questions about whether P4P as currently constituted is a suitable tool for addressing disparities in hospital care.
School District Pension Bond Issuance and the Influence on Spending Behavior
Association for Education Finance and Policy
Calabrese, T., Ely, T. L.
The Effect of the MassHealth Hospital Pay-for-Performance Program on Quality
Health Services Research. 2011:46(3);712-728
Ryan, Andrew M and Jan Blustein.
Objective. To test the effect of Massachusetts Medicaid's (MassHealth) hospital-based pay-for-performance (P4P) program, implemented in 2008, on quality of care for pneumonia and surgical infection prevention (SIP). Data. Hospital Compare process of care quality data from 2004 to 2009 for acute care hospitals in Massachusetts (N=62) and other states (N=3,676) and American Hospital Association data on hospital characteristics from 2005. Study Design. Panel data models with hospital fixed effects and hospital-specific trends are estimated to test the effect of P4P on composite quality for pneumonia and SIP. This base model is extended to control for the completeness of measure reporting. Further sensitivity checks include estimation with propensity-score matched control hospitals, excluding hospitals in other P4P programs, varying the time period during which the program was assumed to have an effect, and testing the program effect across hospital characteristics. Principal Findings. Estimates from our preferred specification, including hospital fixed effects, trends, and the control for measure completeness, indicate small and nonsignificant program effects for pneumonia (-0.67 percentage points, p>.10) and SIP (-0.12 percentage points, p>.10). Sensitivity checks indicate a similar pattern of findings across specifications. Conclusions. Despite offering substantial financial incentives, the MassHealth P4P program did not improve quality in the first years of implementation.