When Dean Yang travelled to Malawi, he sought to discover constraints that existed for financial institutions that influenced their lending practices to vulnerable publics.

“There’s very little microlending in Malawi; it’s just very hard to make it work,” Yang told State & Hill. “ninety percent of the people live on smallholder farms in places that basically have no electricity or running water or financial services or government interaction at all.”

The solution? Fingerprinting. Fingerprinting provided a simple way to confirm identity that the potential loan recipients could not misplace or fake. After running a randomized trial, Yang and his coauthors Xavier Giné (World Bank) and Jessica Goldberg (PhD ’11) found that fingerprinting dramatically increased repayments from high-risk borrowers. They found that the fingerprinted group of high-risk borrowers repaid 92 percent of their loans compared to the control group that only repaid 67 percent of their loans.

With such positive findings, Yang and his colleagues at Innovations for Poverty Action and the World Bank are testing these findings on a much larger scale with the help of a grant from Development Innovation Ventures at USAID.

Read “Microfinance breakthrough: Dean Yang uses fingerprints to boost microlending in Malawi” from State & Hill for more detailed information on Dean yang and his work in Malawi.