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Reciprocity and exclusion in informal financial institutions: An experimental study of rotating savings and credit associations

Shimpei Koike, Mayuko Nakamaru, Tokinao Otaka, Hajime Shimao, Ken-Ichi Shimomura and Takehiko Yamato

PLOS ONE, 2018, vol. 13, issue 8, 1-23

Abstract: Group cooperation is fundamental to human society. The public goods game is often used to describe the difficulty of group cooperation. However, there are other structures of institutions to maintain group cooperation such as Rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs). ROSCAs are informal financial institutions that exist worldwide, in which all participants contribute to a common fund and take turns to receive a return. ROSCAs are common in developing countries and among migrant groups in developed countries. There are various types of ROSCAs, and they share a crucial problem in that participants whose turn to receive a return has passed have an incentive to default on their contributions. We conducted a laboratory experiment to investigate the mechanisms that can prevent default in a fixed ROSCA, in which the order of receipt of returns is determined before starting and is also known to members. The findings are as follows. (i) Excluding low contributors from ROSCA groups by voting increased contribution rates both before and after the receipt of returns. (ii) ROSCA members exhibited reciprocity and a sense of revenge: that is, members contributed to the returns payments of other members who had contributed to them, and did not contribute to the returns payments of non-contributors. Voluntary behaviors thus sustained ROSCAs. Meanwhile, an exogenous punishment whereby subjects were prevented from receiving returns payments unless they had themselves contributed previously did not increase contribution rates.

Date: 2018
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Working Paper: Reciprocity and Exclusion in Informal Financial Institutions: An Experimental Study of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (2015) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202878

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