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The challenge of rural financial inclusion – evidence from microfinance


  • Tania Lopez
  • Adalbert Winkler


Financial inclusion is said to foster development and growth. However, progress in financial inclusion has been slow in rural areas where poverty is most pronounced. This is often attributed to higher transaction costs, higher risks and a more unfavourable contracting environment which makes it more difficult for financial institutions to achieve and maintain sustainability in rural compared to urban areas. Based on data covering 772 microfinance institutions (MFIs) over the period 2008–2013, we test whether rural financial inclusion, notably lending to rural borrowers, is hampered by stronger sustainability challenges than inclusion in urban markets. Our results suggest that a higher share of rural borrowers has no direct effect on MFI sustainability. However, we find that MFIs with a higher share of rural borrowers are less able to exploit economies of scale and productivity effects. Thus, our results provide support for the view that sustainability challenges make it more difficult to achieve progress in financial inclusion in rural than in urban areas.

Suggested Citation

  • Tania Lopez & Adalbert Winkler, 2018. "The challenge of rural financial inclusion – evidence from microfinance," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(14), pages 1555-1577, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:50:y:2018:i:14:p:1555-1577
    DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2017.1368990

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    Cited by:

    1. Chao, Xiangrui & Kou, Gang & Peng, Yi & Viedma, Enrique Herrera, 2021. "Large-scale group decision-making with non-cooperative behaviors and heterogeneous preferences: An application in financial inclusion," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 288(1), pages 271-293.
    2. Anh The Vo & Loan Thi-Hong Van & Duc Hong Vo & Michael Mcaleer, 2019. "Financial Inclusion And Macroeconomic Stability In Emerging And Frontier Markets," Annals of Financial Economics (AFE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 14(02), pages 1-15, June.
    3. Marc Audi & Chan Bibi & Khalil Ahmad, 2019. "Financial Inclusion, Economic Growth and Human Well-Being Nexus: Empirics from Pakistan, India, China, Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh and Malaysia," Bulletin of Business and Economics (BBE), Research Foundation for Humanity (RFH), vol. 8(4), pages 177-190, December.
    4. Marek Hudon & Marc Labie & Patrick Reichert, 2020. "What is a Fair Level of Profit for Social Enterprise? Insights from Microfinance," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 162(3), pages 627-644, March.

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