Microfinance and Ethnography

Microfinance is the financial support to small business in some poor countries or states. The supports include financial loans, banking service, savings and insurance. Due to the financial illiteracy and various cultural backgrounds in these distinctive states, microfinance sometimes became very difficult to operate.

When I was taking Economic Development course in the college, we studied how microfinance faced difficulties in Jamaica. People in the countries tended to borrow money to buy expensive food like meat and luxuries instead of using them to expand their business or children’s education. As a result, microfinance didn’t improve local financial environments and conditions but exacerbate people’s burdens.

In light of the problem, anthropologist Erin B. Taylor believed that ethnography could help with the predicament. In microfinance, people will react to the financial changes differently due to cultural reasons. Since ethnography examines the living conditions and social backgrounds of the states or countries, it could provide a qualitative research of the environment for microfinance. By studying the behaviors of local people, ethnography could show how people think and predict how they will react to certain price changes or other financial changes in their own cultures.

The connection between ethnography and economics is intriguing. Economics is a social science and could be reinforced by how people react in different cultures. Ethnography, on the other hand, could be informative on such aspects. Though real life microfinance is more complex, I believe that two fields could be related.



Malaki, A. (2005). Informal Finance & Microfinance in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago: An Institutional Study. pp. 67-80

Taylor, E.B. (2014). What can ethnography contribute to microfinance research?http://erinbtaylor.com/what-can-ethnography-contribute-to-microfinance-research/