Development Policy Through the Lens of Social Structure

To evaluate how the social structure of village economies affects policy implementation by local agents, this experimental study followed 1,714 workers from disadvantaged settings in 119 villages in Uganda between 2012 and 2014. Findings show that delivery agents favour their own social ties over ex-ante identical farmers connected to the other (non-selected) candidate and that this is inconsistent with output maximisation or targeting the poorest. More-connected delivery agents treat more farmers – one more farmer for every three ties they have. Favouritism disappears when the potential delivery agents belong to the same social group. The paper suggests that the local delivery model intends to exploit the social networks in which agents are embedded, mobilizing insider knowledge of deserving beneficiaries, and harnessing the motivation of local people to help those around them. Finally, it uncovered that relying solely on social motives renders the success of development programs dependent on pre-existing social structures and divisions that can potentially exacerbate existing inequalities in resource allocations within villages, against all best intentions.

Authors: Bandiera, Oriana; Burgess, Robin; Deserranno, Erika; Morel, Ricardo; Rasul, Imran; Sulaiman, Munshi
Type: Discussion Paper
Year: 2020