If you only read one thing this week…

Is there any evidence that development works for the poor? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
October 13, 2006, 8:02 pm
Filed under: Articles, Development theory, If you have 30 mins

The British Overseas Development Institute is hosting a World Bank paper entitled “Are there lasting impacts of a poor-area development project?” Nathan Plowman writes this summary of this fascinating paper that not only looks at what the short and long term effects of this program was, but also compares two different evaluation methodologies.

Shaohua Chen, Ren Mu and Martin Ravallion’s paper looks at the lasting impacts of targeted aid to poor areas, traditionally an important vehicle for development assistance. The paper studies the Southwest China Poverty Reduction Project, a package of integrated interventions in the period 1995-2000 whose aim was to appreciably and sustainably reduce poverty in selected rural areas.

A previous paper (Ravaillon and Chen, 2005), based on comparative data collected from project villages and matched non-project villages during the initial disbursement period, has already concluded that targeted aid had indeed resulted in appreciable income gains.

Analyzing the results of a re-survey of the same sample in 2004/5, the new paper focuses on the key issue of the sustainability of the project: were these income gains transient or permanent? Did they allow participants to “escape poverty indefinitely”?

The paper takes a detailed approach to statistical evaluation methodology. The centerpiece is the “double-difference design”; a corrective method intended to take into account the “spillover” of economic benefits from a project village to a non-project village – also known as “contamination” or “

Finally, the paper studies the performance of less costly rapid appraisal evaluation methods, based on participants’ subjective assessments of whether their living standards have improved. The idea is to see whether such a method – which does not require any prior surveys, including a baseline – provides similar results to the survey-based evaluation model. In this instance, the results of the two methods are broadly consistent, but the authors note that the rapid appraisal method is vulnerable to a recall error bias (whereby perceptions do not properly reflect actual changes) and question the overall reliability of this method.

The paper restates the previous report’s conclusion: there was a sizable and statistically significant impact on mean household income in the participating villages during the project’s disbursement period. However, the net gain to mean income (i.e. any gain additional to that experienced by both project and non-project villages) is considered negligible over the long term: “


2 Comments so far
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I was pleased to see the summary of my paper (with Shaohua Chen and Ren Mu) on your web site, but I would be grateful if you would correct the spelling of my name. This will help readers find your site and find the latest version of the paper, as posted at http://econ.worldbank.org/docsearch. Thanks.

Comment by Martin Ravallion

Thank you Martin, have made the correction.

Comment by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

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