> Posted by Center Staff

portfolios-of-the-poorEditor’s Note: A previous version of this post has been one of the CFI blog’s all-time most popular posts. We thought we’d update it with a few more books, and put it front and center once more for readers who might be stocking their bookshelves.

From time to time, we are asked what our go-to books are for understanding financial inclusion and the financial lives of the poor. If we were to list the top three classics that should be on everyone’s shelves, we would recommend the following (feel free to put these on your gift list as we approach the holidays):

  1. Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo
  2. Portfolios of the Poor by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven
  3. The Poor and Their Money by Stuart Rutherford

What we love about these titles is the insight they provide into the client perspective, a foundational element for anyone working in or supporting financial services. If financial institutions approach their engagement with customers armed with an understanding of customer needs and customer behavior, the financial services industry can be both more responsive and more responsible.

As a refresher, the first five books on the last version of our must-read list were those cited by Stuart Rutherford as his top five on the subject of “The Poor and Their Money”. Rutherford has himself published some of today’s go-to references on this topic (which is why we added his titles above). Rutherford’s favorite books were chosen by him not only for their impact on his work, but also for their ability to place the client at the center of our conceptualization of microfinance. This is important because, as Rutherford himself explains, “microfinance has to find a way to adapt itself to the enormous complexity found in the lives of poor people, and not the other way around.” We continue to appreciate this sentiment, and still think the titles on his list are worth a read:

  1. The Economics of Microfinance by Jonathan Morduch and Beatriz Armendáriz
  2. Mainstreaming Microfinance: How Lending Began, Grew, and Came of Age in Bolivia by Elisabeth Rhyne
  3. Women at the Centre: Grameen Bank Borrowers After One Decade by Helen Todd
  4. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  5. Small, Short and Unsecured: Informal Rural Finance in India by F J A (Fritz) Bouman

Did we miss some that should be included as essential reading? Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite book that didn’t make the list. Happy reading!

Image credit: Princeton University Press

Have you read?

5 Great Books About Microfinance and How the Poor Use Money

Books for Inspiring and Educating Social Entrepreneurs – Alex Counts Book Project

What’s on Financial Inclusion 2020’s Bookshelves?