Dangers of a double-bottom line? A poverty targeting experiment misses both targets

Dean Karlan, Adam Osman, Jonathan Zinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two for-profit Philippine banks, aiming to increasing microlending to the poor, incorporated a widely used poverty measurement tool into their loan applications and tested the tool using randomized training content. Treated loan officers were provided an explanation of the tool's purpose; exhortation tying the tool to the organizations' social missions; and reassurance that these data, conditional on other characteristics, do not predict default and thus should not jeopardize incentive pay based on portfolio performance. The control group training merely labeled the tool “additional household information.” The strategy backfired, leading to no additional poor applicants and potentially lower-performing loans. Descriptive evidence suggests the training exacerbated loan officer misperceptions about compensation incentives and multitasking problems. This cautionary tale is an example of why management may want include social outcomes directly into employee performance evaluations, or silo corporate social responsibility efforts from core operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-522
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Economics and Management Strategy
Issue number3
Early online dateOct 1 2021
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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