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The Potential and Limitations of Self-Targeted Food Subsidies

  • Alderman, Harold
  • Lindert, Kathy

Can self-selection of subsidized commodities be used as a mechanism to transfer income to the poor? Evidence from two self-targeting programs, one in South Africa and one in Tunisia, shows that although self-targeting can clearly improve the distribution of food subsidies to the poorest members of society, its power to alleviate poverty and reduce income disparities is limited by preference patterns, income inequality, and the size of the individual subsidies. Self-targeting through quality and product differentiation can be a useful means to reform existing universal subsidy schemes, but it should be considered a transitional tool while the capacity for implementing more precise mechanisms is developed. Copyright 1998 by Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by World Bank Group in its journal World Bank Research Observer.

Volume (Year): 13 (1998)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 213-29

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Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:13:y:1998:i:2:p:213-29
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  1. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521397421 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Case, Anne & Deaton, Angus, 1998. "Large Cash Transfers to the Elderly in South Africa," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1330-61, September.
  3. Sah, Raaj Kumar, 1983. "How much redistribution is possible through commodity taxes?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 89-101, February.
  4. Besley, Timothy J & Kanbur, S M Ravi, 1988. "Food Subsidies and Poverty Alleviation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(392), pages 701-19, September.
  5. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521265638 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1991. "Public Provision of Private Goods and the Redistribution of Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 979-84, September.
  7. Alderman, Harold, 1987. "Allocation of goods through non-price mechanisms : Evidence on distribution by willingness to wait," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 105-124, February.
  8. Nichols, Albert L & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1982. "Targeting Transfers through Restrictions on Recipients," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 372-77, May.
  9. Tuck, L. & Lindert, K., 1996. "From Universal Food Subsidies to a Self-Targeted Program: A Case Study in Tunisian Reform," World Bank - Discussion Papers 351, World Bank.
  10. Ravallion, Martin, 1991. "Reaching the Rural Poor through Public Employment: Arguments, Evidence, and Lessons from South Asia," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 6(2), pages 153-75, July.
  11. Alderman, Harold & del Ninno, Carlo, 1999. "Poverty Issues for Zero Rating VAT in South Africa," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 8(2), pages 182-208, July.
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