Theses Doctoral

Outside In - Targeting Aid Within Communities

Strauss-Kahn, Camille

In this volume, I present a collection of three articles that are representative of my research on the targeting of humanitarian & development aid. These papers focus on highlighting the role of non-targeted, non-elite community members in fostering or hindering the process of aid distribution to vulnerable community members.
In the first paper, “Allocating Resources To The Poor: The Effects of Targeting Instructions, Community Involvement and Monitoring”, I use a lab-in-the-field ex- periment to examine resource allocation at the micro-level. More specifically, I study how small groups within rural communities in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo — each composed of elites, poor, and non-poor village members — decide to share money among themselves. In a dictator-game like setting, I vary whether the groups are provided with instructions to target the poor, whether the decision-making process is private or public, and whether it is monitored by a third-party or not. I find that (1) by themselves, instructions to target the poor seem to actually benefit both the poor and the non-poor, but that (2) the effectiveness of targeting instructions in reaching poor group members is largely moderated by the presence of community members during the decision-making process, while (3) by contrast, monitoring does not contribute much to the effective allocation of resources to the poor.
In the second paper, “Inside & Out: The Role of the Non-Poor in Targeting Resources to the Poor”, I use a similar experimental set-up to study further the nature of the community dynamics that affect the allocation of resources to the poor. More specifically, I look at the role of non-poor, non-elite community members in influencing how elites choose to allocate resources to the poor. I find evidence that (1) community effects have to do with bargaining dynamics more than peer-pressure; (2) non-elite, non-poor members of the community have an significant role in fostering the allocation of resources to the poor, and that (3) their influence on resource allocation depends crucially on existing alliances or rivalries between various group members.
Finally, in the third paper, “Is Bigger Always Better? How Targeting Bigger Aid Windfalls Affects Capture and Social Cohesion”, co-authored with Laura Paler & Kohran Kocak, I model the provision of targeting instructions as enforcing a bargain- ing environment in which three groups - the target group, the elites, and the excluded group - compete over the aid windfall. I predict that success in aid targeting depends primarily the size of the windfall, the relative influence and the historical relationships between these three groups. Poor, vulnerable groups are more efficiently targeted in environments in which the elites and the excluded group are rivals, as they will then both prefer for the windfall to be allocated to the target group rather than for it to be captured by one another. I provide support for these predictions using a regression discontinuity design and original survey data from an aid program implemented in Aceh, Indonesia.
With these three articles, I aim at providing a substantive theoretical and empirical contribution to the growing literature on aid targeting effectiveness by bringing light to the role in the targeting process of a part of recipient communities that is otherwise largely overlooked, namely all those community members that are both in the community, yet left out of targeted aid programs.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for StraussKahn_columbia_0054D_15047.pdf StraussKahn_columbia_0054D_15047.pdf application/pdf 907 KB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Humphreys, Macartan N.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 11, 2019