Edward Whitney

Journal Articles

"Decentralized Beneficiary Targeting in Large-Scale Development Programs: Insights from the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Program"

January 2014. Journal of African Economies. Co-authored with Paul Winters and Talip Kilic. Available here.

Abstract: This paper contributes to the long-standing debate on the merits of decentralised beneficiary targeting in the administration of development programmes, focussing on the large-scale Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). Using nationally representative household survey data, the study systematically analyses the decentralised targeting performance of the FISP during the 2009–10 agricultural season. The analysis begins with a standard targeting assessment based on the rates of programme participation and the benefit amounts among the eligible and non-eligible populations and provides decompositions of the national targeting performance into the inter-district, intra-district inter-community, and intra-district intra-community components. This approach identifies the relative contributions of targeting at each level. The results show that the FISP is not poverty targeted and that the national government, the districts and the communities are nearly uniform in their failure to target the poor, with any minimal targeting (or mis-targeting) overwhelmingly materializing at the community level. The findings are robust to the choice of the eligibility indicator and the decomposition method. The multivariate analysis of household programme participation reinforces these results and reveals that the relatively well off, rather than the poor or the wealthiest, and the locally well-connected have a higher likelihood of programme participation, and, on average, receive a greater number of input coupons. Since a key programme objective is to increase food security and income among resource-poor farmers, the lack of targeting is a concern and should underlie considerations of alternative targeting approaches.

Book Chapters

“Poverty Trends in Pakistan”

February 2017. Chapter in Measuring Poverty and Wellbeing in Developing Countries. Published by Oxford University Press. Co-authored with Hina Nazli and Kristi Mahrt. Working paper version available here.

Abstract: The official estimates of poverty in Pakistan have shown a remarkable and consistent decline in the poverty headcount during the previous decade. This chapter examines trends in poverty between 2001 and 2011 using the official food energy intake and the cost of basic needs approaches, both of which are modified to allow poverty lines to vary over time and space. The latter estimates provide utility-consistent poverty lines through the imposition of revealed preference conditions in maximum entropy adjustments. Evidence from both methods suggests that poverty incidence increased rather than declined as indicated in the official estimates.

“Poverty, Consumption and Nutrition”

December 2016. Chapter in Agriculture and Rural Poverty Reduction in Pakistan. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press. Co-authored with Sohail Malik, Hina Nazli, Asma Shahzad, and Amina Mehmood.

Abstract: While the slow pace of overall economic growth in Pakistan—particularly in the agricultural sector and the wider rural economy—has been highlighted in the previous chapter, the picture is incomplete without a closer examination of poverty, nutrition, and food security, both throughout the country and in its rural areas. This chapter attempts to deepen the analysis of poverty dynamics in Pakistan. It does so by drawing on and comparing several key sources of data and analyses that are useful in estimating poverty in Pakistan across different dimensions. First and foremost, the chapter draws on household survey data from various sources. These surveys, referred to throughout the chapter, provide important details on household demographics and the consumption, nutrition, and health status of individuals in those households.

“Agriculture Production”

December 2016. Chapter in Agriculture and Rural Poverty Reduction in Pakistan. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press. Co-authored with Sohail Malik, Shujat Alli, Khalid Riaz, and Mehrab Malek.

Abstract: Pakistan boasts the world’s largest gravity-fed irrigation system—a network of rivers, barrages, and canals comprising the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS), as well as the world’s largest earthen dam at Tarbela that provides close to a quarter of the country’s electrical power. But agriculture in Pakistan also faces growing water scarcity and degradation of its natural resource base. There is huge potential for intensifying agricultural production in Pakistan through technical change and improvements in the ways in which inputs are used. This chapter looks beyond the aggregate statistics to provide a more nuanced understanding of the agriculture sector’s diversity, its contribution to Pakistan’s economic growth and development, and the underlying constraints to accelerating its growth.


“The Effects of Land Titling on the Urban Poor: a Replication of Property Rights for the Poor”

In process of journal submission. Co-authored with Paul Winters and Drew Cameron. Working paper version available here.

Abstract: The titling of land to improve property rights is expected (i) to increase investment in land and land-fixed capital since it enhances land security; (ii) to improve access to credit, since it allows land collateralisation; and (iii) to expand the possibility of transferring land with clarity regarding rights. Using a natural experiment in a poor urban area of Buenos Aires, Galiani and Schargrodsky (2010) find that titling substantially increases housing investment, along with a number of social impacts, including reduced household size and increased child education. They find that these impacts do not take effect through expanded credit access due to land collateralisation but through a slow channel of increased physical and human capital investment.

In this paper, we seek to replicate these results. Unfortunately, the original questionnaires and raw data are unavailable, so a complete replication including variable creation is impossible. Furthermore, additional analysis beyond a check of the results is limited by the data, with the available variables permitting only an analysis of a small and somewhat arbitrary set of impacts. A more complete theory of change than included in the original paper suggests that broader effects and pathways to the effects of property right allocation could be explored.

Despite the limited data provided, we are able to replicate Galiani and Schargrodsky’s original results. These results are robust to alternative specifications, suggesting that the original paper provided an accurate assessment of the impact of land titling on the poor. Our analysis of gender heterogeneity suggests that improvements to the dwelling were more likely in households with males as the original squatters. Looking at education heterogeneity, dwelling improvements were mostly driven by original squatters who had received at least a primary education. These findings notwithstanding, the robustness of our results confirms the importance of Galiani and Schargrodsky’s contribution to the literature.