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The Impact of Microcredit on the Poor in Bangladesh: Revisiting the Evidence

  • David Roodman
  • Jonathan Morduch

The most-noted studies on the impact of microcredit on households are based on a survey fielded in Bangladesh in the 1990s. Contradictions among them have produced lasting controversy and confusion. Pitt and Khandker (PK, 1998) apply a quasi-experimental design to 1991–92 data; they conclude that microcredit raises household consumption, especially when lent to women. Khandker (2005) applies panel methods using a 1999 resurvey; he concurs and extrapolates to conclude that microcredit helps the extremely poor even more than the moderately poor. But using simpler estimators than PK, Morduch (1999) finds no impact on the level of consumption in the 1991–92 data, even as he questions PK’s identifying assumptions. He does find evidence that microcredit reduces consumption volatility. Partly because of the sophistication of PK’s Maximum Likelihood estimator, the conflicting results were never directly confronted and reconciled. We end the impasse. A replication exercise shows that all these studies’ evidence for impact is weak. As for PK’s headline results, we obtain opposite signs. But we do not conclude that lending to women does harm. Rather, all three studies appear to fail in expunging endogeneity. We conclude that for non-experimental methods to retain a place in the program evaluator’s portfolio, the quality of the claimed natural experiments must be high and demonstrated.

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Paper provided by Center for Global Development in its series Working Papers with number 174.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:174
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.cgdev.org

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  1. Kleibergen, F.R. & Paap, R., 2003. "Generalized Reduced Rank Tests using the Singular Value Decomposition," Econometric Institute Research Papers EI 2003-01, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), Econometric Institute.
  2. Manuela Angelucci & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2013. "Win Some Lose Some? Evidence from a Randomized Microcredit Program Placement Experiment by Compartamos Banco," Working Papers 1026, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  3. Orazio Attanasio & Britta Augsburg & Ralph De Haas & Emla Fitzsimons & Heike Harmgart, 2011. "Group lending or individual lending? Evidence from a randomised field experiment in Mongolia," IFS Working Papers W11/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  4. Christopher F Baum & Mark E. Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2007. "Enhanced routines for instrumental variables/GMM estimation and testing," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 667, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 05 Sep 2007.
  5. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to capital in microenterprises : evidence from a field experiment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4230, The World Bank.
  6. M. M. Pitt & S. R. Khandker, 2002. "Credit Programmes for the Poor and Seasonality in Rural Bangladesh," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(2), pages 1-24.
  7. Maren Duvendack & Richard Palmer-Jones, 2012. "High Noon for Microfinance Impact Evaluations: Re-investigating the Evidence from Bangladesh," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(12), pages 1864-1880, December.
  8. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2008. "The Experimental Approach to Development Economics," NBER Working Papers 14467, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Jonathan Morduch, 1999. "The Microfinance Promise," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1569-1614, December.
  10. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 2001. "Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments," Working Papers 834, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 424-55, June.
  12. David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2008. "Experimental Evidence on Returns to Capital and Access to Finance in Mexico," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 22(3), pages 457-482, November.
  13. Pitt, Mark M. & Khandker, Shahidur R., 2012. "Replicating replication : due diligence in Roodman and Morduch's replication of Pitt and Khandker (1998)," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6273, The World Bank.
  14. James L. Heckman, 1999. "Causal Parameters and Policy Analysis in Economcs: A Twentieth Century Retrospective," NBER Working Papers 7333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. B.D. McCullough & Kerry Anne McGeary & Teresa D. Harrison, 2008. "Do economics journal archives promote replicable research?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1406-1420, November.
  18. Mark M. Pitt & Shahidur R. Khandker, 1998. "The Impact of Group-Based Credit Programs on Poor Households in Bangladesh: Does the Gender of Participants Matter?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 958-996, October.
  19. Mark M. Pitt, 2012. "Gunfight at the Not OK Corral: Reply to ‘High Noon for Microfinance’," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(12), pages 1886-1891, December.
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  21. Matthieu Chemin, 2008. "The Benefits and Costs of Microfinance: Evidence from Bangladesh," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(4), pages 463-484.
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