Because of the growth of the microfinance industry and the attention the sector has received from policy makers, donors and private investors in recent years, existing microfinance impact evaluations need to be re-investigated; the robustness of claims that microfinance successfully alleviates poverty and empowers women must be scrutinised more carefully. Hence, this review revisits the evidence of microfinance evaluations focusing on the technical challenges of conducting rigorous microfinance impact evaluations.
Thus, our report shows that almost all impact evaluations of microfinance suffer from weak methodologies and inadequate data (as already argued by Adams and von Pischke 1992), thus the reliability of impact estimates are adversely affected. This can lead to misconceptions about the actual effects of a microfinance programme, thereby diverting attention from the search for perhaps more pro-poor interventions. Therefore, it is of interest to the development community to engage with evaluation techniques and to understand their limitations, so that more reliable evidence of impact can be provided in order to lead to better outcomes for the poor.