Frame, Funnel, Deter: The Mechanisms of Behavioral Targeting

  • Elisa ChelleEmail author
Part of the Logic, Argumentation & Reasoning book series (LARI, volume 17)


Conditioning welfare on behavior is now seen by most experts as a fair and efficient set of tools to tackle long-term poverty. Inspired from behavioral economics and social experiments, behavioral targeting has a solid scientific and moralistic background. How can this cognitive dimension impact efficiency? How do policymakers determine who qualifies as the deserving poor? How does eligibility evolve depending on popular conceptions of the “legitimate recipient” at a given time and place? What is the cost of (a) narrow targeting?

Based on field research and semi-structured interviews about two contemporary conditional cash transfers in the U.S. and in France, this chapter contributes to these debates by theorizing how a moral agenda is made. Picking the right incentives is thought by experts to be conducive to socially desirable outcomes. A more thorough analysis reveals that exposing behaviors of the poor to public scrutiny provides the grist for moral government.

The task of alleviating poverty thus appears less a matter of bettering living conditions than reassessing core social values that structure social stratification. By assigning economic value to moral worth, this kind of anti-poverty program primarily targets the middle class, broadly understood. This gap between policy targets and policy audience compels us to reconsider the notion of efficacy in social policy.


Comparison Poverty Conditionality Incentives Moral values 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University Jean Moulin Lyon 3LyonFrance
  2. 2.Sciences Po Paris – LIEPPParisFrance

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