Selecting a Targeting Method to Identify BPL Households in India

OPHI Working Papers

This paper proposes how to select a methodology to target multidimensionally poor households, and how to update that targeting exercise periodically. We present this methodology in the context of discussions regarding the selection of a targeting methodology in India. In 1992, 1997, and 2002 the Indian government identified households that are Below the Poverty Line (BPL) and in updating the 2002 methodology, alternative methods have been proposed and vigorously debated. A fourth BPL method was published and a corresponding Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), implemented. Using the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS3), this paper illustrates how a BPL targeting method using SECC variables might be calibrated to a multidimensional poverty measure. This paper compares the fit between a benchmark measure of multidimensional poverty and several plausible targeting methods to determine which method(s) approximate it – as well as related measures – most closely. We find a ten-item binary scoring method, which uses variables already available in the SECC questionnaire, provides a strong proxy. The emphasis of this paper is to illustrate how a particular targeting method can be justified, rather than to advocate any particular solution. 

Citation: Alkire, S. and Seth, S. (2012). 'Selecting a targeting method to identify BPL households in India', OPHI Working Papers 53, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

This paper is also published in Social Indicators Research, Vol. 112(2), pp. 417–446.

Multidimensional poverty, Below the Poverty Line (BPL), Socio Economic Caste Census, targeting methods, binary scoring, poverty in India
South Asia

Sabina Alkire and Suman Seth
Series Name
OPHI Working Papers
Publication date
JEL Codes
I3, I32
Publication Number
WP 53