To spread the word about a new service, the Indian microfinance institution Bharatha Swamukti Samsthe (BSS) approached leaders in 43 villages—teachers, shopkeepers, savings group leaders, and the like. The goal was to publicize the program by encouraging these leaders to tell their friends about it. But in some villages, only 7 percent of households eventually took out a BSS loan, while in other villages up to 44 percent did so. What accounts for the difference?

According to a team...

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