Photo courtesy of Neil Palmer/CIAT

Does the World Bank help the poorest of the poor? One of Washington’s oldest think tanks uses our sub-national poverty data to find out.

Read the original article here.

Over a decade ago, economists Paul Collier and David Dollar explored the effectiveness of aid allocated to reduce poverty. They started with the obvious, that for maximum poverty reduction, “aid should be given to countries with large amounts of poverty”. And their findings showed that donor agencies were doing just that.

But what is happening on the ground?

If we disaggregate the aid allocated to a country, look at it region by region, are the biggest bucks landing in the poorest regions? Is aid effectively targeting the poorest of the poor in terms of poverty rates or sheer number of poor people?

Without sub-national data it’s hard to say.

But this is changing. The World Bank is mapping their entire project portfolio across the globe – all 2,900 active projects across 30,400 sub-national locations in 144 countries – as part of their “Mapping for Results” initiative.

Meanwhile, the article goes onto mention, HarvestChoice has been busy mapping spatially explicit data for a variety of indicators in sub-Saharan Africa, including sub-national poverty.

It takes two.

When Laurence Chandy and his colleagues from the Brookings Institution overlaid HarvestChoice’s poverty maps with the World Bank’s project maps for sub-Saharan Africa, they found that the regions of aid allocation and greatest need did not typically line up. In fact, out of 24 countries, in only one – the Gambia – does the World Bank come close to maximizing the degree of poverty targeting.

While the authors are careful to criticize and quick to point out the limitations of their analysis, nevertheless, it's hard to argue against the power of good measurements and sub-national statistics for accountability and smart decision making.


HarvestChoice, 2013. "Brookings Institution Uses HarvestChoice’s Sub-National Poverty Data to Critique World Bank." International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC., and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. Available online at

Feb 13, 2013