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Microfinance, foreign aid, Commitment to Development Index, debt and debt relief
David Roodman, a former CGD senior fellow, worked at the Center from March 2002 to July 2013. His work at the Center focused on microfinance, debt relief, and aid effectiveness. His widely praised book Due Diligence confronts questions about the impacts of microfinance and how it should be supported. He wrote the book through a pathbreaking Microfinance Open Book Blog, where he shared questions, discoveries, and draft chapters.
Roodman was an architect and manager of the Commitment to Development Index since the project's inception in 2002. The Index ranks the world's richest countries based on their dedication to policies that benefit the 5 billion people living in poorer nations; it is widely recognized as the most comprehensive measure of rich-country policies towards the developing world.
Roodman wrote several papers questioning the capacity of common cross-country statistical techniques to shed light on what causes economic development. He co-authored a 2004 American Economic Review paper that challenged findings of World Bank research that aid works in a good policy environment. His non-technical Guide for the Perplexed builds on analysis of methodological problems and fragility in other studies. Among econometricians Roodman is best known for his computer programs that run in the statistical software package Stata; articles about them won him the inaugural Stata Journal editors' prize in 2012. Also in 2012, Roodman aged off the RePEc list of top young economists in the world, at number 6.
Recent literature contains many stories of how foreign aid affects economic growth: aid raises growth in countries with good policies, or in countries with difficult economic environments, or mainly outside the tropics, or on average with diminishing returns. The diversity of these results suggests that many are fragile. I test 7 important aid-growth papers for robustness. The 14 tests are minimally arbi-trary, deriving mainly from differences among the studies themselves. This approach investigates the importance of potentially arbitrary specification choices while minimizing arbitrariness in testing choices. All of the results appear fragile, especially to sample expansion.
This course explores the role of microfinance in economic development. It will discuss how poor people in poor countries use financial services such as credit and savings; the history and practice of delivering such services; what is known about their contribution to development; and how stories and statistical studies shape public perceptions of microfinance.