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.
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