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Journal of Integrative Agriculture  2021, Vol. 20 Issue (4): 880-890    DOI: 10.1016/S2095-3119(20)63444-X
Section 1: Poverty governance and international experience Advanced Online Publication | Current Issue | Archive | Adv Search |
Elite capture, the “follow-up checks” policy, and the targeted poverty alleviation program: Evidence from rural western China
CHENG Xiao-yu1, WANG Jian-ying2, 3, Kevin Z. CHEN3, 4
1 Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, P.R.China
2 School of Economics, Zhejiang University of Finance & Economics, Hangzhou 310018, P.R.China
3 China Academy for Rural Development, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, P.R.China
4 International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C. 20005, USA
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Decentralized methods for targeting poverty are widely adopted in developing countries to improve the performance of various poverty alleviation programs.  A common challenge for implementing successful decentralized targeting is the existence of elite capture.  China has recently implemented a nationwide decentralized poverty targeting program, the targeted poverty alleviation (TPA) policy, to achieve the national goal of eliminating absolute poverty by the end of 2020.  As the largest decentralized poverty targeting program in the world, TPA’s successful implementation was believed to be threatened by elite capture in some earlier reports.  Since 2015, a targeting correction mechanism, called “follow-up checks” policy, has been introduced.  With the “follow-up checks” policy, the elites and other ineligible households who receive benefits under TPA were removed from the program.  This paper investigates the elite capture phenomenon in TPA using village census data from a poverty-stricken county in 2017 - two years after implementing the “follow-up checks” policy.  We find no evidence of elite capture in TPA.  The elites are unlikely to become beneficiaries or receive more benefits than non-elites.  Our results contradict earlier findings that reported elite capture in TPA.  We argue that the reason is the accountability emphasized by the central government in the “follow-up checks” policy.  Our findings imply that having proper accountability is critical for improving targeting performance by global antipoverty initiatives.
Keywords:  elite capture        decentralized poverty targeting        targeted poverty alleviation        the “follow-up checks&rdquo      policy        accountability  
Received: 23 June 2020   Accepted: 28 March 2021
Fund: This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71661147001 and 71603228), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2018M630687 and 2018T110607), and the Zhejiang University-IFPRI Center for International Development Studies.
Corresponding Authors:  Correspondence Kevin Z. CHEN, E-mail:    
About author:  CHENG Xiao-yu, E-mail:;

Cite this article: 

CHENG Xiao-yu, WANG Jian-ying, Kevin Z. CHEN. 2021. Elite capture, the “follow-up checks” policy, and the targeted poverty alleviation program: Evidence from rural western China. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 20(4): 880-890.

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