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Decentralization and Efficiency of Subsidy Targeting: Evidence from Chiefs in Rural Malawi

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  • Basurto, Pia
  • Dupas, Pascaline
  • Robinson, Jonathan

Abstract

Developing countries spend vast sums on subsidies. Beneficiaries are typically selected via either a proxy-means test (PMT) or through a decentralized identification process led by local leaders. A decentralized allocation may offer informational advantages, but may be prone to elite capture. We study this tradeoff in the context of two large-scale subsidy programs in Malawi (for agricultural inputs and food) decentralized to traditional leaders ("chiefs") who are asked to target the needy. Using high-frequency household panel data on neediness and shocks, we find that nepotism exists but has only limited mistargeting consequences. Importantly, we find that chiefs target households with higher returns to farm inputs, generating an allocation that is more productively efficient than what could be achieved through a PMT. This could be welfare improving, since within-village redistribution is common.

Suggested Citation

  • Basurto, Pia & Dupas, Pascaline & Robinson, Jonathan, 2017. "Decentralization and Efficiency of Subsidy Targeting: Evidence from Chiefs in Rural Malawi," CEPR Discussion Papers 12012, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12012
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    10. Daron Acemoglu & Tristan Reed & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Chiefs: Economic Development and Elite Control of Civil Society in Sierra Leone," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(2), pages 319-368.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alix-Garcia, Jennifer M. & Sims, Katharine R.E. & Costica, Laura, 2021. "Better to be indirect? Testing the accuracy and cost-savings of indirect surveys," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 142(C).
    2. Hillebrecht, Michael & Klonner, Stefan & Pacere, Noraogo A., 2020. "Dynamic Properties of Poverty Targeting," Working Papers 0696, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    3. Ernesto Dal Bó & Frederico Finan & Nicholas Y. Li & Laura Schechter, 2021. "Information Technology and Government Decentralization: Experimental Evidence From Paraguay," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 89(2), pages 677-701, March.
    4. Marcos Diaz, 2020. "Three essays on development economics : public policies and geographical discontinuities," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/6rl0q151go8, Sciences Po.
    5. Altındağ, Onur & O'Connell, Stephen D. & Şaşmaz, Aytuğ & Balcıoğlu, Zeynep & Cadoni, Paola & Jerneck, Matilda & Foong, Aimee Kunze, 2021. "Targeting humanitarian aid using administrative data: Model design and validation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C).
    6. Silvia Marchesi & Tania Masi, 2019. "Allocation of Implementing Power: Evidence from World Bank Projects," Development Working Papers 447, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
    7. Hodjo, Manzamasso & Dalton, Timothy & Nakelse, Tebila & Acharya, Ram N & Blayney, Don, 2021. "From coupon to calories: Assessing input coupon impact on household food calories production," World Development Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 22(C).
    8. Susanna B. Berkouwer & Pierre E. Biscaye & Steven L. Puller & Catherine Wolfram, 2021. "Disbursing Emergency Relief through Utilities: Evidence from Ghana," NBER Working Papers 28818, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Maggio, Giuseppe & Veljanoska, Stefanija, 2021. "Would you rather stay? Agricultural Subsidies and Household Migration in Malawi," 2021 Annual Meeting, August 1-3, Austin, Texas 314041, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    10. Silvia Marchesi & Tania Masi, 2021. "Delegation of implementation in project aid," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 655-687, July.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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