Microfinance and Poverty -A Macro Perspective


This paper tests the hypothesis that microfinance reduces poverty at macro level using cross-country and panel data, based on the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) data on MFIs and the new World Bank poverty estimates. Taking account of the endogeneity associated with loans from MFIs, our econometric analysis shows that a country with higher MFIs' gross loan portfolio tends to have lower levels of FGT class of poverty indices. Contrary to recent micro evidence based on randomised evaluations pointing to no or weak effect on poverty, there is robust confirmation of the poverty reducing role of microfinance. Significantly, microfinance loans are negatively associated with not only the poverty headcount ratio, but also with the poverty gap and squared poverty gap, implying that even the poorest benefit from them. The case for channelling funds from development finance institutions and governments of developing countries into MFIs is thus reinforced. Our assessment has added significance as the tide seems to be turning against microfinance as a means of poverty alleviation.


Katsushi S. IMAI
Economics, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, UK
Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration (RIEB), Kobe University
Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe
657-8501 Japan
Phone: +81-78-803-7036
FAX: +81-78-803-7059

Raghav GAIHA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA & Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi, India

Ganesh THAPA
International Fund for Agricultural Development, Italy

Samuel Kobina ANNIM
Economics, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, UK