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Improving the Evidence on the Impact of Microfinance: An Experimental Study of Microfinance Interventions in Three Countries

Microfinance has a long and complicated history with policy makers and researchers. Many initial proponents argued that lack of access to formal finance was a critical part of why people remained poor in developing countries. However, initial reviews of impacts did not show transformative changes for people beyond a few anecdotal stories. The large promises of microfinance solving world poverty were not panning out.

Decades after the beginning of the microfinance movement, there is still little conclusive evidence on the impact of microfinance on the lives of the poor. A recent exploration of experimental studies of microfinance by Dahal and Fiala (2020) shows that most studies suffer from serious power and design issues. These issues are so large that it is not possible to draw meaningful conclusions about the impact of microfinance, either for or against.

This project plans to address these issues by conducting experimental tests of microfinance programming in Paraguay, Myanmar and Uganda. The study will seek to improve on the design of previous experiments in several ways. However, the main goal will be to increase statistical power. The study will employ a third-party subscription model to identify potential microfinance clients before a baseline survey is conducted. This design is expected to substantially improve take-up differentials between treatment and control communities.

Project start:
01. January 2018

Project end:
31. December 2022

Project management:
Prof. Dr. Nathan Fiala

Project staff:
Lise Masselus

Project partners:
University of Connecticut, Innovations for Poverty Actions, Innovations for Poverty Actions, Gaplink UG