Karol, with Marginal Revolution‘s own Tyler Cowen, just published this outstanding article in the current issue of the Wilson Quarterly. It’s entitled "The Micromagic of Microcredit." Here are the concluding paragraphs:
With microcredit, life becomes more bearable and easier to manage. The improvements may not show up as an explicit return on investment, but the benefits are very real. If a poor family is able to keep a child in school, send someone to a clinic, or build up more secure savings, its well-being improves, if only marginally. This is a big part of the reason why poor people are demanding greater access to microcredit loans. And microcredit, unlike many charitable services, is capable of paying for itself—which explains why the private sector is increasingly involved. The future of microcredit lies in the commercial sector, not in unsustainable aid programs. Count this as another benefit.
If this portrait sounds a little underwhelming, don’t blame microcredit. The real issue is that we so often underestimate the severity and inertia of global poverty. Natalie Portman may not be right when she says that an end to poverty is “just a mouse click away,” but she’s right to be supportive of a tool that helps soften some of poverty’s worst blows for many millions of desperate people.