Mahreen Mahmud

Mahreen Mahmud

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Development Economics (CSAE)

Mahreen Mahmud is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Development Economics at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Centre for Studies of African Economies. At the Blavatnik School, she is involved in the supervision and development of Randomised Control Trials looking at the economic effects of psychological interventions, such as goal-setting and mental health programmes, primarily in developing countries in Africa. She is working with Kate Orkin to set up a programme of research at the intersection of social psychology and economics.

Mahreen has a PhD in Economics from the University of Kent and MSc in Finance and Economics from the University of Warwick. Between 2009 and 2012, she worked as a Research and Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Research in Economics and Business, Lahore School of Economics and also consulted for Innovations for Poverty Action in Pakistan.  She works on topics related to development economics and has a particular interest in microfinance and behavioural economics on which she has ongoing field projects in Pakistan.



Access to solar electricity in rural Sindh: impacts and sustainability 

(with Jacopo Bonan, Giovanna d’Adda, Farah Said, Massimo Tavoni)  2016-2018
We collaborate with a for-profit company supplying sustainable and efficient solar energy solutions (e.g. lights, fans, mobile chargers, TV) to small businesses in off-grid areas of rural Sindh in Pakistan. We will evaluate the impact of solar systems on small business outcomes in off-grid areas and investigate key determinants of the sustainability of the business model and of product take-up, by looking at the trade-off between discipline and flexibility in repayment schedule. We will also explore the behavioural underpinnings of two repayment schemes, by testing soft ways to increase the salience of repayment. The project is expected to start in October 2016 and is being funded by the IGC.

Impact assessment of start-up loans to female-run microenterprises 

(with Naved Hamid and Farah Said) 2014-2016

The study is an RCT of a unique micro-loan product with a training component that is provided only to female borrowers to start-up their microenterprise. This research is collaboration between the Lahore School of Economics and the Kashf Foundation, Pakistan. Endline activities in 2015 were funded by the IGC and they have extended funding for a follow up survey to be conducted in August 2016.

Agency and female entrepreneurs: evidence from a field experiment in Pakistan

(with Azam Chaudhry, Giovanna d'Adda and Farah Said) 2014-2016

We conducted lab-in-field experiments with `couples' to explore constraints to female enterprise using the sample from the RCT with female borrowers. We elicit measures of household dynamics and perceptions of socially acceptable behavior that can affect decisions women make about monetary resources. We find that self-employed women exhibit greater agency in matters relating to money in that they do not hide their experiment payoffs from their partners and they exhibit greater ownership over earnings. Housewives keep more publicly; their husbands hide money and keep their own earnings.Women believe the society deems investment decisions by women to less appropriate than men do but this difference is not as stark in the self employed group.



Working Papers

Repaying microcredit loans: A natural experiment on liability structure. (click here for working paper)

Abstract: Microcredit loans were traditionally extended to groups of people. However, there is no clear evidence that joint liability does lead to better borrower performance and recent years have seen a shift towards individual liability lending. Utilizing the exogenous shift from individual to joint liability lending by a micro-finance organization in Pakistan, we .nd evidence of signi.cant improvement in borrower discipline. Borrowers are about 0.6 times as likely to miss a payment in any given month under joint liability relative

to individual liability. We use the exogenous variation in number of months borrowers had till the expiry of their individual liability loans at the time of the shift to study the kind of groups they formed. We .nd that the more time borrowers had, the more likely they were to form groups with people they knew from before and met weekly. This in turn had a positive impact on borrower discipline.

Microcredit with voluntary contributions and zero interest rate - evidence from Pakistan. (click here for working paper)

Abstract:We study a unique microcredit model with zero interest rate and voluntary contributions, used by Akhuwat, a microfinance organization operating in Pakistan since 2001. Borrowers are encouraged to give any amount they wish to the organization every month, in addition to the installment for the repayment of principal. These voluntary contributions result in an implicit interest rate of around 4.5%. The analysis of monthly data on voluntary contributions provide evidence that the organization is rewarding borrowers for their contributions by giving them repeat loans and that borrowers are strategically timing these voluntary contributions through their loan cycle to maximize impact. In the case of joint liability loans, borrowers in poorly performing groups make on average higher voluntary contributions, and voluntary contributions in a previous loan cycle correlate with borrower discipline in a subsequent loan cycle. Thus, voluntary contributions can signal borrower quality, and joint liability borrowers appear to be using them to signal their quality independently of their group.