The purpose of this paper is to examine the direct (microcredit), medium-direct (bank credit), and indirect (through economic growth) effect of financial sector development (FSD) on rural-urban consumption inequality (RUCI) in India using state-wise annual data from 1999-2000 to 2011-2012.
A panel data analysis for a sample of 15 major Indian states using the generalized method of moments estimators provides an empirical evidence for the direct (microcredit), medium-direct (bank credit), and indirect (economic growth) effect of FSD on RUCI.
FSD is pro-urban in India resulting in a declining rural-urban consumption ratio (RUCR) and increasing RUCI. The negative effect of FSD on RUCR is greatest through the medium-direct channel followed by the indirect and direct channels.
The study questions the social banking initiatives of the government in rural areas where more than 80 percent of the poor reside. There is a need for restructuring financial inclusion programs with a shift in their focus on rural areas and an improved mechanism to target the poor.
The paper proposes that formal financial services by banks are primarily availed by non-poor and urban population and hence acts as a medium-direct channel whereas the semi-formal financial services by microfinance institutions specifically target the rural poor and act as a direct channel to affect the poor. It is the first ever study to use state-wise data on microcredit disbursed under Self-help Group Bank Linkage Program to assess the direct impact of FSD on RUCI.