Not That Handbook of Microfinance

Joanna Ledgerwood’s Microfinance Handbook is a great resource on institutional and financial perspectives, still full of insight even though 2011 marks its 13th birthday. Ledgerwood is at work on a new volume, this time from the demand side, and it’s eagerly anticipated.

While we wait for that, we’re happy to see a very different Handbook of Microfinance just published, edited by Beatriz Armendáriz and Marc Labie.  Among their affiliations, Armendáriz and Labie are part of CERMi, a leading microfinance research center, located at ULB in Brussels.  

The book is pricey ($190 list price) and large (704 pages), but think of it as costing just $0.27 a page. That 27 cents buys a collection of insights from a range of scholars, including many European scholars who we don’t get to see very often in the US. The book has an unusually thorough representation of papers on the trade-offs between commercialization and social outreach.  It’s also good on the macro context. But the pieces I’ve learned most from may well be work that draws on qualitative evidence, including studies by Isabelle Guérin and Solène Morvant-Roux. (Check out their important work on over-indebtedness here).

If 27 cents a page sounds steep, convince your library to make the purchase (the pricing is set at a level that perhaps a library could embrace).  

Or take a look at the 3 sample chapters available for free, especially a helpful piece by Greg Fischer and Maitreesh Ghatak of the LSE on uniting theory and empirics. (From the introduction: “Yet despite the attention paid to microfinance, the design of credit contracts for small uncollateralized loans remains a bit of a mystery.” Indeed.)

And then there’s a work of pure poetry on regulation, competition, and financing. (Opening line: “Over three decades, microfinance has evolved, mutated, and segmented.”). Okay, not poetry, but perhaps a useful summary of supply-side research. (And if you do like poetry, here’s a book I recommend.)