29 November 2011

Reasons *not* to target social cash transfers on the poorest

the middle class defined in relative terms does matter, precisely because they are the middle—the swing vote. It isn’t that they are especially worthy, more that they are essentially in between. If they make up the 60 percent between the bottom thirty and the top ten, which side they back is going to be important. So if we want to design policies that get implemented, we will want to consider them. That is, for example, a reason to consider transfer mechanisms that target the bottom 60 percent rather than the bottom 20 percent. Depending on country circumstances, it might make the transfer more politically attractive even while dramatically increasing its cost and reducing targeting efficiency. But that is a matter of the middle class’s statistical strength, not its social characteristics; indeed, it suggests we think of the middle class not as especially virtuous but as usually selfish.
Charles Kenny, "Where is the virtue in the middle class?"

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