IMPACT
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Are Microloans Poverty's Quick Fix?

This week, Slate posted an earnest Q & A about the interest rates that Kiva and other microlending sites charge to help alleviate poverty around the world.

Kiva has received a lot of kudos (and criticism) for making altruism easy--anyone with a computer, credit card and a minimum of $25 can directly help a poor entrepreneur halfway across the world. They can charge interest rates as high as 30 percent, which sort of kills the do-good buzz. Meanwhile, donating to charity, feels less personal and is potentially less efficient than distributing money through microlenders.

Slate points out that alleviating poverty isn't black or white:

[Experts say] there's a need for more research (particularly longer-term randomized control studies), and that even if we don't find a societal benefit, that that's not necessarily a good reason to cast it aside. Microfinance expert David Roodman points out that the authors of Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day suggest that the biggest challenge of poverty isn't necessarily how small your income is but rather how variable and unpredictable it can be.

Microlending's Nobel Prize nod has led a lot of people believe that funding families on an individual basis is the answer to global poverty. But even Kiva readily admits that there's no easy fix to eradicating poverty.

Is this an obvious conclusion? Impact wants to hear about your experiences lending or donating to a cause. Which one is your pick?

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