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The microfinance movement is one of the most successful ever in the worlds of foreign aid and philanthropy, not least thanks to the stories it told of poor women climbing out of poverty through entrepreneurship. But the hype has side effects: credit bubbles in India and other countries, and a brewing backlash as rigorous new studies challenge the claims of poverty reduction. David Roodman set out to cut through the hype with his Microfinance Open Book Blog that charted the journey to his 2011 book Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance.
I also posted this on CGD's global health policy blog.
The Lancet just published a letter I wrote questioning an influential study in its pages that concluded that most or all foreign aid for health goes into non-health uses. The letter follows up on concerns I expressed in this space in April 2010. Why the 2.5-year lag? Only this past January did the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) share the data set and computer code that it used to generate the published findings. And only with those in hand could I check my concerns and describe them to others with credibility. (I'm grateful to the kind people at IHME who gave me the data and code, but don't want to let the institution per se off the hook.)
Confusingly, in May the Public Library of Science published another critique of the same article. I questioned that reanalysis, and it was eventually retracted.
Here, I sketch my argument, comment on the reply from Chunling Lu and Christopher Murray, then call out the Lancet for a certain lack of transparency, as well as for sometimes bringing more reputation than rigor to policy-relevant social science research.