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Microfinance Meets the Market

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  • Robert Cull
  • Asli Demirgüç-Kunt
  • Jonathan Morduch

Abstract

In this paper, we examine the economic logic behind microfinance institutions and consider the movement from socially oriented nonprofit microfinance institutions to for-profit microfinance. Drawing on a large dataset that includes most of the world's leading microfinance institutions, we explore eight questions about the microfinance "industry": Who are the lenders? How widespread is profitability? Are loans in fact repaid at the high rates advertised? Who are the customers? Why are interest rates so high? Are profits high enough to attract profit-maximizing investors? How important are subsidies? The evidence suggests that investors seeking pure profits would have little interest in most of the institutions we see that are now serving poorer customers. We will suggest that the future of microfinance is unlikely to follow a single path. The recent clash between supporters of profit-driven Banco Compartamos and of the Grameen Bank with its "social business" model offers us a false choice. Commercial investment is necessary to fund the continued expansion of microfinance, but institutions with strong social missions, many taking advantage of subsidies, remain best placed to reach and serve the poorest customers, and some are doing so at a massive scale. The market is a powerful force, but it cannot fill all gaps.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.23.1.167
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 23 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 167-92

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:1:p:167-92

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.1.167
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  1. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Martinez Peria, Maria Soledad, 2005. "Reaching out : access to and use of banking services across countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3754, The World Bank.
  2. Conning, Jonathan, 1999. "Outreach, sustainability and leverage in monitored and peer-monitored lending," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 51-77, October.
  3. McKenzie, David J & Woodruff, Christopher, 2006. "Do Entry Costs Provide an Empirical Basis for Poverty Traps? Evidence from Mexican Microenterprises," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 3-42, October.
  4. Dean Karlan & Xavier Gine & Jonathan Morduch & Pamela Jakiela, 2006. "Microfinance Games," Working Papers 936, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  5. Karlan, Dean S. & Zinman, Jonathan, 2007. "Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions To Estimate the Impacts," CEPR Discussion Papers 6180, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Ashok S. Rai & Tomas Sj�str�m, 2004. "Is Grameen Lending Efficient? Repayment Incentives and Insurance in Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(1), pages 217-234.
  7. Robert Cull & Asli Demirguç-Kunt & Jonathan Morduch, 2007. "Financial performance and outreach: a global analysis of leading microbanks," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(517), pages F107-F133, 02.
  8. Conning, Jonathan & Udry, Christopher, 2007. "Rural Financial Markets in Developing Countries," Handbook of Agricultural Economics, Elsevier.
  9. Mudit Kapoor & Jonathan Morduch & Shamika Ravi, 2007. "From Microfinance to m-Finance Innovations Case Discussion: M-PESA," Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, MIT Press, vol. 2(1-2), pages 82-90, April.
  10. Morduch, Jonathan, 1999. "The role of subsidies in microfinance: evidence from the Grameen Bank," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 229-248, October.
  11. Ashok S. Rai & Tomas Sj–str–m, 2004. "Is Grameen Lending Efficient? Repayment Incentives and Insurance in Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(1), pages 217-234, 01.
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