Finance

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. May 2009

Collins, D., Morduch, J., Rutherford, S. & Ruthven, O.
05/01/2009

About forty percent of the world's people live on incomes of two dollars a day or less. If you've never had to survive on an income so small, it is hard to imagine. How would you put food on the table, afford a home, and educate your children? How would you handle emergencies and old age? Every day, more than a billion people around the world must answer these questions. Portfolios of the Poor is the first book to explain systematically how the poor find solutions.

The authors report on the yearlong "financial diaries" of villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa--records that track penny by penny how specific households manage their money. The stories of these families are often surprising and inspiring. Most poor households do not live hand to mouth, spending what they earn in a desperate bid to keep afloat. Instead, they employ financial tools, many linked to informal networks and family ties. They push money into savings for reserves, squeeze money out of creditors whenever possible, run sophisticated savings clubs, and use microfinancing wherever available. Their experiences reveal new methods to fight poverty and ways to envision the next generation of banks for the "bottom billion."

Foreword

Foreword
In Stuart Rutherford, The Pledge: ASA, Microfinance and Peasant Politics in Bangladesh. New York: Oxford University Press. 2009.

Jonathan Morduch
02/02/2009

Microfinance Meets the Market

Microfinance Meets the Market
February Journal of Economic Perspectives 23(1), Winter:  167-192.

Morduch, J., Cull, R. & Demirguc-Kunt, A.
02/01/2009

In this paper, we examine the economic logic behind microfinance institutions and consider the movement from socially oriented nonprofit microfinance institutions to for-profit microfinance. Drawing on a large dataset that includes most of the world's leading microfinance institutions, we explore eight questions about the microfinance "industry": Who are the lenders? How widespread is profitability? Are loans in fact repaid at the high rates advertised? Who are the customers? Why are interest rates so high? Are profits high enough to attract profit-maximizing investors? How important are subsidies? The evidence suggests that investors seeking pure profits would have little interest in most of the institutions we see that are now serving poorer customers. We will suggest that the future of microfinance is unlikely to follow a single path. The recent clash between supporters of profit-driven Banco Compartamos and of the Grameen Bank with its "social business" model offers us a false choice. Commercial investment is necessary to fund the continued expansion of microfinance, but institutions with strong social missions, many taking advantage of subsidies, remain best placed to reach and serve the poorest customers, and some are doing so at a massive scale. The market is a powerful force, but it cannot fill all gaps.

The Unbanked: Evidence from Indonesia

The Unbanked: Evidence from Indonesia
October   World Bank Economic Review 22(3): 517-537

Morduch, J. & Jonston Jr., D.
10/01/2008

To analyze the prospects for expanding financial access to the poor, bank professionals assessed 1,438 households in six provinces in Indonesia to judge their creditworthiness. About 40 percent of poor households were judged creditworthy according to the criteria of Indonesia's largest microfinance bank, but fewer than 10 percent had recently borrowed from a microbank or formal lender. Possessing collateral appeared as a minor determinant of creditworthiness, in keeping with microfinance innovations. Although these households were judged able to service loans reliably, most desired small loans. Calculations show that the bank, given its current fee structure and banking practices, would lose money when lending at the scales desired. So, while innovations have helped to extend financial access, it remains difficult to lend in small amounts and cover costs.

"What You Don't Know Can't Help You: Worker Knowledge and Retirement Decision-Making"

"What You Don't Know Can't Help You: Worker Knowledge and Retirement Decision-Making"
Review of Economics and Statistics, volume 90(2), May 2008

Chan, S. & Stevens, A.H.
05/01/2008

This paper provides an answer to an important empirical puzzle in the retirement literature: while most people know little about their own pension plans, retirement behavior is strongly affected by pension incentives. We combine administrative and self-reported pension data to measure the retirement response to actual and perceived financial incentives and document an important role for self-reported pension data in determining retirement behavior. Well-informed individuals are far more responsive to pension incentives than the average individual. Ill-informed individuals seem to respond systematically to their own misperceptions of pension incentives.

Equity and Accountability: The Impact of State Accountability Systems on School Finance

Equity and Accountability: The Impact of State Accountability Systems on School Finance
Journal of Public Budgeting & Finance, 28 (3): 1-22

Rubenstein, R. & Ballal, S., Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A.E.
01/01/2008

Using an 11-year panel data set containing information on revenues, expenditures, and demographics for every school district in the United States, we examine the effects of state-adopted school accountability systems on the adequacy and equity of school resources. We find little relationship between state implementation of accountability systems and changes in school finance equity, though we do find evidence that states in which courts overturned the school finance system during the decade exhibited significant equity improvements. Additionally, while implementation of accountability per se does not appear linked to changes in resource adequacy, states that implemented strong accountability systems did experience improvements.

Smart Subsidy

Smart Subsidy
Chapter 5 in Bernd Balkenhol, ed., Microfinance and Public Policy: Outreach, Performance and Efficiency. Palgrave/Macmillan, 2007, pp. 72-85.

Jonathan Morduch
12/26/2007

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