The Impact of Microfinance: Grameen Foundation Provides a Primer

> Posted by Anita Gardeva
In today’s Huffington Post blog, Elisabeth Rhyne reflects on the recent report by Grameen Foundation and the impact of microfinance…

What’s the impact of microfinance? A question with 150 million answers, one for every client around the world who receives microfinance services.

Academics who wield sophisticated statistical tools to assess complex social phenomena like microfinance give answers with more precision, but they don’t always spend much time explaining their results to a broader public. And the press likes to give stories hard-hitting headlines whenever they can. Outcome: much of what the public reads in the press does not accurately reflect the studies. The press take on the most recent raft of studies about microfinance caused heartburn among both microfinance promoters and academics, as Nicholas Kristof reported in his New York Times blog.

Into the fray comes Grameen Foundation with a paper by Kathleen Odell, an economist from Dominican University. Odell’s paper, “Measuring the Impact of Microfinance: Taking Another Look,” provides a guide to ten of the most important studies on the impact of microfinance in the past five years. The Grameen Foundation paper helps the non-academic reader understand both how the impact studies were conducted and what they are finding. While the author is clearly sympathetic to microfinance, she reports both positive and negative findings faithfully, making an important contribution to an often-contentious conversation. I won’t go into the complex methodology arguments here; instead I’ll look at the study findings. Read more >.