Targeting Transfers: Innovative Solutions to Familiar Problems


  • Stephen Devereux

  • 1 This article is an output from an ESCOR research project (Devereux 1999). I am grateful to DFID for financial support, to Mick Moore for helpful comments on an earlier draft, and to George Eiseb, Joao Machatine and Nangana Simwinji for research assistance in Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia respectively.


Summaries The case for targeting cash or in-kind transfers to the poor – that it maximises cost-effectiveness and equitable allocation of scarce public resources – is partially offset by the administrative, social and political costs that targeting introduces. This article examines practical applications of three alternative targeting mechanisms: self-targeting, individual assessment, and group characteristics. It finds that current international ‘conventional wisdom’ – which favours, for example, introducing gender quotas to public works projects and minimising administration costs to maximise transfers to beneficiaries – often leads to perverse outcomes, which have motivated innovative modifications in specific local contexts.