Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School


Public Policy and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. J.S. Butler


Microfinance is a development tool used to reduce poverty among extremely poor households. Impoverished households can access lines of credit through microfinance institutions (MFIs), in order to create a new business, smooth household consumption, fund medical emergencies, etc. Many authors postulate that MFIs are drifting from a welfarist to an institutionalist approach to lending.

Using MIXMarket data on specific MFIs in 118 countries between 1995 and 2011, the average loan balance of these organizations will be regressed against measure of outreach and sustainability of these institutions by charter type through a series of four, fixed effects models. The main research question is: given that a positive, overall shift in average loan balance indicates an institutionalist shift in mission, how does this impact microfinance institutions and the demographics they target on the intensive and extensive margins? These analyses will test the theory that MFIs with larger average loan balances serve households closer to the subsistence poverty level, a manifestation of mission drift toward the institutionalist philosophy of lending.

The phenomenon of mission drift directly impacts the outcomes of microfinance institutions and the target demographic of the organization. The results of this study indicate that the mission of these organizations is drifting toward the institutionalist philosophy of lending. With this general result, mission drift can be observed within both the internal and external margins of the microfinance industry, which influences the chosen target market, profit generated, and structure of MFIs, as determined by the mission of the organization.