The Inter-American Development Bank Adapts the Alkire Foster Measure for Targeting Beneficiaries by Oportunidades in Mexico

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has adapted and promoted the Alkire Foster measurement methodology to help governments in Latin America target beneficiaries of Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes (CCT). With IDB supervision, the methodology has been adopted in Mexico in 2008 and has just been designed for the Honduras Urban CCT. It is currently being considered by Nicaragua, and was initially presented in Panama in June of 2009.

In 2008 Viviane Azevedo and Marcos Robles of the IDB were concerned that poverty was known to be multidimensional but all methods being used on the ground to identify the poor were unidimensional-often just income or comparing a composite index with an unique cutoff. They searched for a practical, easy-to-use alternative and discovered the Alkire Foster poverty measure. [See Sabina Alkire and James Foster, ‘Counting and Multidimensional Poverty’, OPHI Working Paper 7.] While the measure was developed for a more effective way to measure poverty, they decided it could be used for a practical policy and programmatic alternative.

Mexico proved to be the experimental pilot to test whether or not the Alkire Foster method worked in the field. The Mexican Government in 2004 had passed a social development law that defined development as having a multitude of dimensions. It charged the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) with the task of implementing a multidimensional approach to the measurement of poverty. In turn, programmes of the National Government were charged to broaden their definitions of poverty and development. This was the impetus that led Oportunidades, a national governmental social development programme, to be open to a new approach. The IDB staff members presented the Alkire Foster measurement approach to the Oportunidades team as an alternative way to select poor households that under-invest in their children’s human capital, and in follow-up. Oportunidades’ decided to implement the Alkire Foster approach-and use it not just for the measurement of results but also for operational purposes-such as targeting beneficiaries. To quote a paper written by the two IDB innovators: ‘This follows the multidimensional poverty measurement approach developed by Alkire and Foster, i.e., an identification method with two cutoff points (identification of the “dual cutoff lines”), which in turn suggests an aggregation approach sensitive to the number of deprivations experienced by a poor household (“dimension-adjusted” measurement).’

The rapid success of this programme in Mexico, based on the ease of use and the much more accurate targeting of beneficiaries, led the IDB team to propose its expansion to other countries; supporting the design of the multidimensional targeting in Honduras and soon to follow in Nicaragua. Recently the proposal was presented in Panama, and will be discussed at the II Sub-regional Caribbean Meeting of the Poverty and Social Protection Network of the Regional Policy Dialogue (Jamaica).

The IDB news release, 15 June 2009 ‘Mexico receives $600 million to fight poverty through the Human Development Program Oportunidades’ can be found at: