Research Finding

Guaranteed Employment and the Poor: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

In this note, the authors find that overall, poorer households are overwhelmingly more likely to self-select into the program (i.e., seek MGNREGS employment) than better-off households, indicating that the self-targeting design of the program is in and of itself pro-poor. While at the national level, administrative rationing patterns exhibit a bias toward the middle class rather than toward the poor, this varies immensely at the state level. Furthermore, because the self-selection effects generally dominate the rationing effects, the overall result is that MGNREGS targeting is noticeably pro-poor, especially favoring lower caste households. However, female-headed households are less likely to benefit from the pro-gram, due to both lower job-seeking rates and higher levels of administrative rationing than seen for male-headed households.

Download PDF