Many methodologies exist for dividing a population into those who are
classified as eligible for social transfers and those who are
ineligible. Popular targeting mechanisms include means testing, proxy
means tests, categorical, geographic, community-based, and
This paper reviews empirical evidence from a range of social protection
programmes on the accuracy of these mechanisms, in terms of minimising
four targeting errors: inclusion and exclusion, by eligibility and by
poverty. This paper also reviews available evidence on the various costs
associated with targeting, not only administrative but also private,
social, psycho-social, incentive-based and political costs. Comparisons
are difficult, but all mechanisms generate targeting errors and costs.
Given the inevitability of trade-offs, there is no ‘best’ mechanism for
targeting social transfers. The key determinant of relative accuracy and
cost-effectiveness in each case is how well the targeting mechanism is
designed and implemented.
Devereux, S.; Masset, E.; Sabates-Wheeler, R.; Samson, M.; Rivas, A. M.; Te Lintelo, D. Evaluating the Targeting Effectiveness of Social Transfers: A Literature Review. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK (2015) 67 pp.