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Evaluating Microfinance
Evaluating microfinance
Nolberta Melara of San Marcos, El Salvador, sells her homemade embroidered aprons in shops across the country. She got her start with a $30 loan from a nonprofit microlender. Since the first microfinance bank was established in 1983, thousands of banks and credit cooperatives around the world have been created to help small entrepreneurs. Supporters say microloans lift millions out of poverty, but critics say lenders’ exorbitant rates lure many borrowers deeper into debt and may even be creating a microcredit bubble.

Two years ago, Siyawati, a mother of three, lived on a meager income brought in by her husband's work as a construction day laborer in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. Then she got a $212 microfinance loan from SKS India, ...

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