More than 1.9 billion individuals in the developing world benefit from social safety net programs: noncontributory transfer programs that distribute cash or basic in-kind products to the poor. But despite their importance, high levels of corruption often stifle the effectiveness of these programs. If cash transfer programs are particularly prone to graft, then in-kind programs should be preferred in practice. In a recent paper, Muralidharan et al. report evidence to the contrary by showing that use of a modern banking technology—biometric smart cards—can help to drastically reduce corruption in cash transfer programs.
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