Beck, Thorsten

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Financial Economics
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Last updated February 1, 2023
Thorsten Beck is Professor of Economics and Chairman of the European Banking Center. Before joining Tilburg University and the Center, he worked at the Development Research Group of the World Bank. His research and policy work has focused on two main questions: What is the effect of financial sector development on economic growth and poverty alleviation? What are the determinants of a sound and effective financial sector? Recently, his research has focused on access to financial services by small and medium-sized enterprises and households, as well as bank resolution, especially for cross-border banks. He is co-author of several policy reports, including "Making Finance Work for Africa" and "Finance for All? Policies and Pitfalls in Expanding Access." His country experience in both research and policy work includes Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Russia and several sub-Saharan African countries.   
Citations 26 Scopus

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 78
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    Big Bad Banks? The Impact of U.S. Branch Deregulation on Income Distribution
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-08) Beck, Thorsten ; Levine, Ross ; Levkov, Alexey
    Policymakers and economists disagree about the impact of bank regulations on the distribution of income. Exploiting cross-state and cross-time variation, the authors test whether liberalizing restrictions on intra-state branching in the United States intensified, ameliorated, or had no effect on income distribution. The analysis finds that branch deregulation lowered income inequality by affecting labor market conditions, not by boosting the business income of the poor, nor by enhancing educational attainment. Reductions in the earnings gap between men and women and between skilled and unskilled workers account for the bulk of the explained drop in income inequality.
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    Who Gets the Credit? And Does It Matter? Household vs. Firm Lending across Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-07) Beck, Thorsten ; Büyükkarabacak, Berrak ; Rioja, Felix ; Valev, Neven
    While the theoretical and empirical finance literature has focused almost exclusively on enterprise credit, about half of credit extended by banks to the private sector in a sample of 45 developing and developed countries is to households. The share of household credit in total credit increases as countries grow richer and financial systems develop. Cross-country regressions, however, suggest a positive and significant impact on gross domestic product per capita growth only of enterprise but not household credit. These two findings together partly explain why previous studies have found a small or insignificant effect of finance on growth in high-income countries. In addition, countries with a lower share of manufacturing, a higher degree of urbanization, and more market-oriented financial systems have a higher share of household credit. It is thus mostly socio-economic trends that determine credit composition, while policies influencing banking market structure and regulatory policies are not robustly related to credit composition.
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    The Econometrics of Finance and Growth
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-04) Beck, Thorsten
    This paper reviews different econometric methodologies to assess the relationship between financial development and growth. It illustrates the identification problem, which is at the center of the finance and growth literature, using the example of a simple Ordinary Least Squares estimation. It discusses cross-sectional and panel instrumental variable approaches to overcome the identification problem. It presents the time-series approach, which focuses on the forecast capacity of financial development for future growth rates, and differences-in-differences techniques that try to overcome the identification problem by assessing the differential effect of financial sector development across states with different policies or across industries with different needs for external finance. Finally, it discusses firm-level and household approaches that allow analysts to dig deeper into the channels and mechanisms through which financial development enhances growth and welfare, but pose their own methodological challenges.
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    Benchmarking Financial Development
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) Beck, Thorsten ; Feyen, Erik ; Ize, Alain ; Moizeszowicz, Florencia
    Capitalizing on recent improvements in the availability of cross-country financial sector data, this paper proposes a standard methodology for benchmarking the policy component of financial development. Systematic controls are introduced to isolate main structural country characteristics and a principal components analysis is used to help identify a parsimonious set of ten "core" outcome indicators from a broader set of twenty seven potential indicators covering different dimensions of development in both financial institutions and financial markets. Such a broad-based approach helps reveal important determinants and regularities of the process of financial development. The paper also identifies some of the main data gaps that will need to be filled to allow further progress in financial benchmarking looking forward.
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    Bank Competition and Financial Stability : Friends or Foes?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) Beck, Thorsten
    Theory makes ambiguous predictions about the relationship between market structure and competitiveness of the banking system and banking sector stability. Empirical studies focusing on individual countries provide similarly ambiguous results, while cross-country studies point mostly to a positive relationship between competition and stability in the banking system. Where liberalization and unfettered competition have resulted in fragility, this has been mostly the consequence of regulatory and supervisory failures. The advantages of competition for an efficient and inclusive financial system are strong, and regulatory and supervisory policies should focus on an incentive-compatible environment for banking rather than try to fine-tune market structure or the degree of competition.
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    Foreign Bank Acquisitions and Outreach : Evidence from Mexico
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-01) Beck, Thorsten ; Martinez Peria, Maria Soledad
    Recently, developing countries have witnessed a sharp increase in foreign bank participation. The authors examine the impact on banking outreach using newly gathered data for Mexico, where foreign bank participation rose from 2 percent to 83 percent of assets during 1997-2005. Country-, bank-, and bank-municipality level estimations show a decline in the number of deposit and loan accounts. While country- and bank-level estimations indicate an increase in the share of municipalities with bank branches and in the likelihood of bank presence, bank-municipality regressions show that only rich and urban municipalities benefited. Overall, the evidence is consistent with a decline in outreach.
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    Finance, Inequality, and Poverty: Cross-Country Evidence
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2004-06) Beck, Thorsten ; Demirguc-Kunt, Asli ; Levine, Ross
    While substantial research finds that financial development boosts overall economic growth, the authors study whether financial development is pro-poor: Does financial development disproportionately raise the income of the poor? Using a broad cross-country sample, the authors find that the answer is yes: Financial intermediary development reduces income inequality by disproportionately boosting the income of the poor and therefore reduces poverty. This result is robust to controlling for simultaneity bias and reverse causation.
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    The Determinants of Financing Obstacles
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2004-02) Beck, Thorsten ; Demirgüç-Kunt, Asli ; Laeven, Luc ; Maksimovic, Vojislav
    The authors use survey data on a sample of over 10,000 firms from 80 countries to assess (1) how successful a priori classifications are in distinguishing between financially constrained and unconstrained firms, and (2) more generally, the determinants of financing obstacles of firms. They find that older, larger, and foreign-owned firms report less financing obstacles. Their findings thus confirm the usefulness of size, age, and ownership as a priori classifications of financing constraints, while they shed doubts on other classifications used in the literature. Their results also suggest that institutional development is the most important country characteristic explaining cross-country variation in firms' financing obstacles.
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    Determinants of Life Insurance Consumption across Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-02) Beck, Thorsten ; Webb, Ian
    The importance of life insurance companies as part of the financial sector has significantly increased over the past decades, both as provider of important financial services to consumers and as a major investor in the capital market. However, the authors still observe a large variance in life insurance consumption across countries, which raises the question of its determinants. The authors use a greatly expanded data set on life insurance consumption to examine the determinants of the demand and supply of life insurance products across countries and over time. Using a cross-sectional sample of 63 countries averaged over 1980-96, the authors find that educational attainment, banking sector development, and inflation are the most robust predictors of life insurance consumption, while income is only a weak predictor. The results on educational attainment and inflation are confirmed in a panel of 23 countries over the period 1960-96. The results strengthen the case for promoting price stability, financial sector reform, and an efficient education system if life insurance and its many benefits are to be fully realized in an economy.
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    Financial and Legal Constraints to Firm Growth : Does Size Matter?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-02) Beck, Thorsten ; Demirguc-Kunt, Asli ; Maksimovic, Vojislav
    Using a unique firm-level survey data base, covering fifty four countries, the authors investigate whether different financial, legal, and corruption issues that firms report as constraints, actually affect their growth rates. The results show that the extent to which these factors constrain a firm's growth depends very much on its size, and that it is consistently the smallest firms that are most adversely affected by all these constraints. Firm growth is more affected by reported constraints in countries with underdeveloped financial, and legal systems, and higher corruption. So, policy measures to improve financial, and legal development, and reduce corruption are well justified in promoting firm growth, particularly the development of the small, and medium enterprise sector. But the evidence also shows that the intuitive descriptors of an "efficient" legal system, are not correlated with the components of the general legal constraints that predict firm growth. This finding suggests that the mechanism by which the legal system affects firm performance, is not well understood. The authors' findings also provide evidence that the corruption of bank officials, constraints firm growth. This "institutional failure" should be taken into account, when modeling the monitoring role of financial institutions in overcoming market failures due to informational asymmetries.