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Targeting the Poor: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia

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

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15980.

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Date of creation: May 2010
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Publication status: published as Vivi Alatas & Abhijit Banerjee & Rema Hanna & Benjamin A. Olken & Julia Tobias, 2012. "Targeting the Poor: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1206-40, June.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15980
Note: PE POL
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