Social Indicators Research

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 417–446 | Cite as

Selecting a Targeting Method to Identify BPL Households in India

  • Sabina Alkire
  • Suman Seth


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 (NFHS-3), 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.


Multidimensional poverty Below the poverty line (BPL) Socio Economic Caste Census Targeting methods Binary scoring Poverty in India 



This paper has gone through many versions. We are grateful to participants in the June 2008 OPHI research meeting in Oxford, the 2008 HDCA conference in New Delhi, the WIDER conference on Frontiers of Poverty Research in Helsinki, the 2011 International Economic Association Sixteenth World Congress in Beijing, the 2010 Michaelmas OPHI Lunchtime Seminar Series in Oxford, the 2011 South Asia in transition conference in Oxford, and to Jean Drèze, Reetika Khera, Rinku Murgai, Abhijit Sen and anonymous referees for comments on previous versions of this draft. All errors remain our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Queen Elizabeth House (QEH), Oxford Department of International Development (ODID)University of OxfordOxfordUK

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