Leveraging Social Connections

Development Economics

Lori Beaman

Niall Keleher

Jeremy Magruder

Carly Trachtman


December 28, 2019

Identifying eligible beneficiaries for social programs, a process known as “targeting,” can be a challenging and costly process for development and humanitarian organizations. Many widely-used targeting strategies were developed for rural environments and may not work as well in dynamic and densely populated urban centers. One potential new technique is “decentralized targeting,” a process that relies on information from socially knowledgeable members of a community. In Liberia, we conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the effectiveness of decentralized targeting in reaching poor households and households that have experienced an economic or health shock. Preliminary results find that both the proxy means test and decentralized targeting were prone to error – the majority of households identified by both were not the poorest.