This study deals with the impact of offering a gender and business training to female microfinance clients in Vietnam using a randomization control trial (RCT). A specific feature of the study is that a random group of female borrowers were allowed to take their husbands to the trainings. The study explicitly tests whether the impact of the training is conditional on the presence of husbands. The study also differentiates between short term effects and longer term effects of the training. We consider impacts on a range of outcomes, varying from knowledge to profits, and “unpack” profits by distinguishing between the returns to different activities. We also consider the impact on different dimensions of female empowerment. Our results provide support for the finance-plus approach to development. We find that the gender and business trainings improve knowledge, increase the uptake of new business practices, and after some delay cause an increase in profits. We also find that the magnitude of the measured impact varies over time, and that measuring the impact on downstream variables like profits is likely to result in under-estimates of the true impact if data are collected too early after the end of the training. We also document effects at the extensive margin, and find that participating in the training may increase the start-up of new economic activities and slow-down the exit of existing ones. In addition, we provide evidence that female borrowers who receive access to training experience more internal control beliefs, less relational friction, and more intra-household decision making power. Finally, we document that the general business training significantly increased the returns to agricultural practices, even if agriculture was not specifically targeted – an example of a household-level spillover across economic sectors. Not all our hypotheses were supported by the data. Most importantly, we do not document statistically robust effects of including husbands in the training for most of our outcome variables. However, we are careful not to dismiss the potential contribution of participating husbands too lightly. First, while the differences across treatment arms are not statistically significant, we consistently find that estimated treatment effects on profits are larger when men are involved in the trainings. Second, their participation was appreciated by the women, and it is possible that positive outcomes emerges along other dimensions (i.e. beyond business-related variables). We show that the attendance of man can have a (small) positive effect, but we don’t have enough information about the impacts of “own husbands”. Future research needs to examine this with a larger sample, or using more salient incentives, so that a larger share of the target population of men participates in the trainings.
- micro finance
- business training