Distributional Outcomes of a Decentralized Welfare Program

38 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2000

See all articles by Emanuela Galasso

Emanuela Galasso

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Martin Ravallion

Georgetown University

Date Written: April 2000


Community-level targeting of antipoverty programs is now common. Do local community organizations target the poor better than the central government? In one program in Bangladesh, the answer tends to be yes, but performance varies from village to village. The authors try to explain why.

It is common for central governments to delegate authority over the targeting of welfare programs to local community organizations - which may be better informed about who is poor, though possibly less accountable for getting the money to the local poor - while the center retains control over how much goes to each local region.

Galasso and Ravallion outline a theoretical model of the interconnected behavior of the various actors in such a setting. The model's information structure provides scope for econometric identification.

Applying data for a specific program in Bangladesh, they find that overall targeting was mildly pro-poor, mostly because of successful targeting within villages. But this varied across villages. Although some village characteristics promoted better targeting, these were generally not the same characteristics that attracted resources from the center.

Galasso and Ravallion observe that the center's desire for broad geographic coverage appears to have severely constrained the scope for pro-poor village targeting. However, poor villages tended not to be better at reaching their poor.

They find some evidence that local institutions matter. The presence of cooperatives for farmers and the landless appears to be associated with more pro-poor program targeting. The presence of recreational clubs has the opposite effect.

Sometimes the benefits of decentralized social programs are captured by local elites, depending on the type of spending being decentralized. When public spending is on a private (excludable) good, and there is no self-targeting mechanism to ensure that only the poor participate, there is ample scope for local mistargeting.

This paper - a product of Poverty and Human Resources, Development Research Group - is part of a larger effort in the group to assess the performance of alternative means of reaching the poor through public programs. The study was funded by the Bank's Research Support Budget under the research project "Policies for Poor Areas" (RPO 681-39). The authors may be contacted at egalasso@worldbank.org or mravallion@worldbank.org.

JEL Classification: I38, H73

Suggested Citation

Galasso, Emanuela and Ravallion, Martin, Distributional Outcomes of a Decentralized Welfare Program (April 2000). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=238870

Emanuela Galasso

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States
202-473-3902 (Phone)
202-522-1153 (Fax)

Martin Ravallion (Contact Author)

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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