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A Poor Means Test? Econometric Targeting in Africa

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  • Caitlin Brown
  • Martin Ravallion
  • Dominique van de Walle

Abstract

Proxy-means testing is a popular method of poverty targeting with imperfect information. In a now widely-used version, a regression for log consumption calibrates a proxy-means test score based on chosen covariates, which is then implemented for targeting out-of-sample. In this paper, the performance of various proxy-means testing methods is assessed using data for nine African countries. Standard proxy-means testing helps filter out the nonpoor, but excludes many poor people, thus diminishing the impact on poverty. Some methodological changes perform better, with a poverty-quantile method dominating in most cases. Even so, either a basic-income scheme or transfers using a simple demographic scorecard are found to do as well, or almost as well, in reducing poverty. However, even with a budget sufficient to eliminate poverty with full information, none of these targeting methods brings the poverty rate below about three-quarters of its initial value. The prevailing methods are particularly deficient in reaching the poorest.

Suggested Citation

  • Caitlin Brown & Martin Ravallion & Dominique van de Walle, 2016. "A Poor Means Test? Econometric Targeting in Africa," NBER Working Papers 22919, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22919
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • 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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