Handbook of Finance and Development
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Handbook of Finance and Development

Edited by Thorsten Beck and Ross Levine

This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the relationship between financial and real sector development. The different chapters, written by leading contributors in the field, survey research on the importance of financial development for economic growth, the causes and consequences of financial fragility, the historic development of financial systems in several major economies and regions of the world, and the regulatory and supervisory underpinnings of financial sector development.
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Chapter 20: Microfinance and economic development

Robert Cull and Jonathan Morduch

Abstract

Microfinance is generally seen as a way to fix credit markets and unleash the productive capacities of poor people dependent on self-employment. The microfinance sector grew quickly since the 1990s, paving the way for other forms of social enterprise and social investment. But recent evidence shows only modest average impacts on customers, generating a backlash against microfinance. We reconsider the claims about microfinance, highlighting the diversity in evidence on impacts and the important (but limited) role of subsidy. We conclude by describing an evolution of thinking: from microfinance as narrowly construed entrepreneurial finance toward microfinance as broadly construed household finance. In this vision, microfinance yields benefits by providing liquidity for a wide range of needs rather than solely by boosting business income.

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