Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 01/2012

Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance

David Roodman

January 2012

Center for Global Development


Microfinance: Few development ideas have been so buoyed by high expectations in recent decades, and few have been so buffeted by difficulties in recent years. Images of microfinance lifting people out of poverty now compete with ones of the poor driven by debt to suicide. Where does the truth lie? David Roodman investigates in Due Diligence. He finds no evidence that small loans lift people out of poverty en masse but argues that financial services, like clean water and electricity, are essential to a modern life. The practical question is not whether microfinance should continue, but how it can play to its strengths, which lie in providing useful services to millions of poor people in a businesslike way.