Do social assistance programmes reach the poor? Micro-evidence from 123 countries

Governments around the world rely on social assistance to reduce poverty, but the poorest are left behind.

There has been a sharp reduction in global poverty over the past 25 years, from 36% in 1990 to 10% in 2015. Yet, 736 million people continue to live on less than USD 1.90 a day (World Bank, 2015), most of them in middle-income countries. In recent years, the largest reductions in extreme poverty worldwide have resulted from substantial economic growth in many emerging economies, particularly China and India (Page and Pande, 2018).

To help fill knowledge gaps in this area, this brief presents three key findings on the effectiveness of social assistance. These messages are based on analysis of a rich World Bank dataset – ASPIRE (The Atlas of Social Protection Indicators of Resilience and Equity) – that covers 123 developing and transitioning countries.