Microfinance is a widely celebrated strategy for helping poor people in the developing world. Leading microfinance institutions, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Grameen Bank, reach millions of clients. CGD research fellow David Roodman and Uzma Qureshi analyze why some microfinance institutions succeed in covering costs, earning returns, attracting capital, and scaling up. They conclude that financial imperatives can explain much about how microfinance products are designed, for example, the common emphasis on group lending to women. Thus the business acumen of microfinance innovators is underappreciated. But more rigorous study is needed to understand when and where these design choices help clients.
With foreign investment in the U.S. increasingly in the spotlight, this working paper by William Cline explores the U.S. external deficit and the fact that the U.S. relies on foreign lending to finance its trade deficit. Cline emphasizes the dangers of a hard landing for the U.S., and why this would especially hurt developing countries that depend on an expanding U.S. economy and are vulnerable to spikes in interest rates. The paper is based on a chapter in Cline’s recent book, The U.S. as a Debtor Nation.