Evaluating the Targeting Effectiveness of Social Transfers: A Literature Review

S. Devereux, E. Masset, R. Sabates-Wheeler, M. Samson, D. te Lintelo, Althea Rivas

Research output: Working paper / PreprintWorking paper

11 Citations (SciVal)


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 self-selection.

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.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherInstitute for Development Studies
Pages1 - 67
Number of pages67
Volume2015, no. 460
ISBN (Print)978 1 78118 250 5
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2015

Publication series

NameIDS Working Paper 460


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