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Targeting the Poor: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia

Author

Listed:
  • Vivi Alatas
  • Abhijit Banerjee
  • Rema Hanna
  • Benjamin A. Olken
  • Julia Tobias

Abstract

In developing countries, identifying the poor for redistribution or social insurance is challenging because the government lacks information about people's incomes. This paper reports the results of a field experiment conducted in 640 Indonesian villages that investigated two main approaches to solving this problem: proxy-means tests, where a census of hard-to-hide assets is used to predict consumption, and community-based targeting, where villagers rank everyone on a scale from richest to poorest. When poverty is defined using per-capita expenditure and the common PPP$2 per day threshold, we find that community-based targeting performs worse in identifying the poor than proxy-means tests, particularly near the threshold. This worse performance does not appear to be due to elite capture. Instead, communities appear to be using a different concept of poverty: the results of community-based methods are more correlated with how individual community members rank each other and with villagers' self-assessments of their own status than per-capita expenditure. Consistent with this, the community-based methods result in higher satisfaction with beneficiary lists and the targeting process.

Suggested Citation

  • Vivi Alatas & Abhijit Banerjee & Rema Hanna & Benjamin A. Olken & Julia Tobias, 2010. "Targeting the Poor: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia," NBER Working Papers 15980, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15980
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    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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