Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance Paperback – Dec 19 2011
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"David Roodman has been the most consistent and articulate analyst of microcredit in recent years."—Muhammad Yunus, founder, Grameen Bank
About the Author
David Roodman is a research fellow at the Center for Global Development. He has been architect and manager of the Commitment to Development Index since the project's inception in 2002.
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The quick - and for most donors very disappointing - answer is that there is no convincing evidence that microcredit is an effective tool for bringing people out of poverty. There are many stories of people who have indeed worked their way out of poverty after accessing microcredit loans, but there are also many stories of people who have worked their way further into debt. According to the author, the most reliable research into the effectiveness of microcredit does not indicate any net positive effect on the incidence of poverty. Microfinance as a whole, however, particularly microsavings accounts, does provide a very useful means for the poor to manage their money.
Intuitively these findings make sense. In Western countries, poor people who save money tend to improve their lot, whereas poor people who max out their credit cards tend to stay poor. Poor people tend to borrow money more often to meet today's needs than to invest in high-return business enterprises. Finding food for today is a more pressing concern than repaying a loan tomorrow.
The surprising thing about the findings is that they tend to contradict the virtually unanimous voice of microcredit proponents over many years. Presumably the microcredit myth has lasted so long because it appeals to our paternalistic instincts as donors, romantically portraying the poorest of the poor as skilled entrepreneurs just needing access to capital (when what they really need is opportunities for decent employment), portraying women as better managers of money than men (when in reality they are perhaps more susceptible to coercive demands for repayment), and suggesting that poverty can be solved through a simple commercial transaction (when much more complex structural change is required).
The author does not confine himself to investigating the effect of microfinance on financial poverty. He also considers the impact on freedom and industry building. He presents his observations in a measured and impartial but very engaging and readable manner. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is concerned about serving the poor effectively.
Roodman has been the most consistent and articulate analyst of microcredit in recent years. I hope this book reaches a wide readership and brings lasting, universal improvements in financial services for low-income people. --Muhammad Yunus, founder, Grameen Bank, and winner, Nobel Peace Prize
At a time when the pendulum of public opinion on microfinance is swinging from exuberance to cynicism, Roodman's balanced, evidence-based assessment is a timely and seminal contribution. This is an essential read for practitioners, promoters, and critics of microfinance. --Sir Fazle Abed, founder and chair, BRAC
Due Diligence is the result of years of rigorous, fact-based analysis and deep thinking of the type microfinance sorely needs. Anyone interested in the future of financial inclusion should read Roodman's work. --Carlos Danel Cendoya, cofounder,Compartamos Banco
Due Diligence is the microfinance book that grown-ups have been waiting for, as complex and fascinating as its subject. Roodman brushes away the slogans and the oversimplified dogmas to uncover microfinance's long history and multifarious present. It's required reading for anybody who seeks to engage seriously with the questions of whether and how microfinance works. And best of all, it's a pleasure to read. --Felix Salmon, Reuters
Microfinance has more than its fair share of myths, both positive and negative. It's a field in desperate need of cool, rational, and evidence-based analysis, and David Roodman has proved that he is singularly capable of providing it. --Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and Adapt
No other book on microfinance is at once so well-informed and so objective. Roodman has an insider's depth of understanding, while his position outside the field allows him to look with clear--and penetrating--eyes. --Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, Center for Financial Inclusion
Roodman pulls off the feat of examining microfinance from many angles without losing focus. The result is the most thoughtful book about the industry yet published--and consequently one of the most thought-provoking. --Stuart Rutherford, author of The Poor and Their Money
This is a splendid book. It's original and very smart. It's an engaging read. Best of all, it displays a high order of intellectual honesty. None of this is any surprise to those of us who have followed Roodman's microfinance blog, which is the only one I never delete before reading. --Richard Rosenberg, CGAP
David Roodman does the kind of analysis the research world needs more of: bringing together quantitative studies, qualitative studies, and historical context into a rich, holistic, hype-free picture. It's not just the most thorough and balanced assessment of microfinance we've seen--it's a case study in how to do thorough and balanced assessment. --Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld, founders, GiveWell
Roodman's book astonished me. It is well researched, very well written, and perceptive. It could aid the microfinance industry in a shift from helping poor people cope with poverty to helping them move out of poverty. --Deepa Narayan, Director of the World Bank's Voices of the Poorand Moving Out of Poverty series and former Senior Adviser on Poverty Reduction
Microcredit perhaps never deserved the uncritical kudos it received between 1997 and 2006. Nor does it deserve the vilification since. David Roodman's is an important voice in looking at the field without prejudice. He comes up with several insights which will be useful for re-jigging the field. --Vijay Mahajan, Chairman, BASIX and chair of executive committee, CGAP
Due Diligence is a balanced, respectful, diagnostic effort to make microfinance a more powerful tool for social progress. For microfinance activists Roodman has written a page turner. Obligatory reading if you want to call yourself a microfinance leader. --Jonathan Lewis, founder and chair, MicroCredit Enterprises
This incredibly thorough and supremely careful public examination of microfinance is already part of the canon in the field. I don't think anyone who hasn't read Due Diligence can legitimately claim a serious interest in microfinance. --Timothy Ogden, cofounder and editor-in-chief, Philanthropy Action
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