16 July 2012

Targeting the Hard-Core Poor

As briefly flagged in the IPA Annual Report, there are some exciting positive results coming out of the BRAC graduation model. IPA is coordinating evaluations all over the world, and some of the first results are coming out of the Bandhan implementation in India, the evaluation led by Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, and Jeremy Shapiro (paper here).
As The Economist reports;
Well after the financial help and hand-holding had stopped, the families of those who had been randomly chosen for the Bandhan programme were eating 15% more, earning 20% more each month and skipping fewer meals than people in a comparison group. They were also saving a lot. The effects were so large and persistent that they could not be attributed to the direct effects of the grants.
What worries me is how scalable this programme is. That word "hand-holding" worries me. How many developing country governments have the resources and management capacity to arrange for a detailed skilled-labour-intensive personalised package of intensive support for every poor person? How many developed country governments have the capacity for that?

It worries me especially when there are so many easily scalable cost effective programmes out there that are not being funded. Why not focus first on the simple things that we know to work, like universal child grants or universal school meals, that can easily have a big impact on millions?

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