Spare Change: Gender and Power in the Global Microfinance Industry


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Sociology Department at Boston College during academic year 2016-2017


Who benefits from the multibillion dollar global financial sector devoted to serving small, high-interest loans to women in the global South? Drawing on interviews and ethnography in India and the United States, Spare Change traces microfinancial value chains that connect poor and working class women to global capital, including clients, loan officers, elites within microfinance institutions, venture capitalists, and even micro-lenders on the popular charitable website, At each “link” in the chain, the project examines individual motivations in relation to the value chain as a whole. This analysis shows that the global microfinance industry serves loans to poor women that may or may not benefit them, while producing careers, profit, and a sense of satisfaction for those at the top. Spare Change thus questions our presumptions about women’s lives in the global South while also critiquing the attractive idea of “doing good,” while making a profit.