Nearly forty percent of humanity lives on an average of two dollars a day or less. If you've never had to survive on an income so small, it is hard to imagine. How would you put food on the table, afford a home, and educate your children? How would you handle emergencies and old age? Every day, more than a billion people around the world must answer these questions. Portfolios of the Poor is the first book to systematically explain how the poor find solutions to their everyday financial problems.
The authors conducted year-long interviews with impoverished villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa--records that track penny by penny how specific households manage their money. The stories of these families are often surprising and inspiring. Most poor households do not live hand to mouth, spending what they earn in a desperate bid to keep afloat. Instead, they employ financial tools, many linked to informal networks and family ties. They push money into savings for reserves, squeeze money out of creditors whenever possible, run sophisticated savings clubs, and use microfinancing wherever available. Their experiences reveal new methods to fight poverty and ways to envision the next generation of banks for the "bottom billion."
Indispensable for those in development studies, economics, and microfinance, Portfolios of the Poor will appeal to anyone interested in knowing more about poverty and what can be done about it.
"A fascinating discussion of the finances of the world's poor."--Nicholas Kristof, NYTimes.com
"Ten years ago, the authors of this unusual study began collecting detailed yearlong 'financial diaries' from households in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. . . . The diarists did things that might seem irrational--borrowing in order to save; paying interest on savings--but that made sense given their unpredictable incomes and limited options. While the authors do offer prescriptions for how to expand those options, it's their scrupulous attention to actual behavior that makes this book invaluable."--New Yorker
"The book's methodology and conclusions are fascinating."--Publishers Weekly
"The authors of Portfolios of the Poor found that a 'triple whammy' characterizes the financial lives of the poor. Incomes are not only low; they are also irregular and unpredictable. . . . The authors' account suggests much that can be done to ease the financial conditions of poor people."--Anirudh Krishna, Science
"A refreshingly distinct path. Portfolios of the Poor . . . avoid[s] the big picture and zoom[s] in on the basics of daily poverty, exploring how poor families manage their money. . . . The diaries reveal a 'real, ongoing, and substantial demand' for better financial services, which poor families need to provide better health care and schooling for their children. . . . Rather than waiting for the world to debate and accept their ideas, these authors have taken them up on their own. In the war against global poverty, that feels like one small battle won."--Carlos Lozada, Washington Post
"The research provides evidence of the sophistication with which poor people think about their finances."--The Economist
Table of Contents:
List of Tables vii
List of Figures ix
Chapter One: The Portfolios of the Poor 1
Chapter Two: The Daily Grind 28
Chapter Three: Dealing with Risk 65
Chapter Four: Building Blocks: Creating Usefully Large Sums 95
Chapter Five: The Price of Money 132
Chapter Six: Rethinking Microfinance: The Grameen II Diaries 154
Chapter Seven: Better Portfolios 174
Appendix 1: The Story behind the Portfolios 185
Appendix 2: A Selection of Portfolios 211
This book has been translated into:
Paperback: Not for sale in South Asia and South Africa