ICES Seminar in Experimental Economics and Game Theory

Food vs. Food Stamps: Evidence from an At-Scale Experiment in Indonesia

Friday, October 16, 2020 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Online Location, Zoom Meeting

The ICES Seminar in Experimental Economics and Game Theory of the Fall 2020 semester will feature:

Ben Olken

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Food vs. Food Stamps: Evidence from an At-Scale Experiment in Indonesia 


Please contact ICES Office Manager ( for Zoom link.



Governments seeking to provide food assistance have a choice between providing in-kind food directly to beneficiaries, or providing vouchers that can be used to purchase food on the market. To understand the differences between these policies, the Government of Indonesia randomized across districts. with over 3.4 million household beneficiaries, the transition from in-kind delivery of subsidized rice to approximately equivalent vouchers usable to buy rice and eggs. We find the transition led to substantial changes in the allocation of aid. Whereas in-kind food aid was often subdivided and spread to many households in villages, vouchers were not. As a result, the vouchers provided concentrated assistance to targeted households, who received 45 percent more assistance in voucher areas than in in-kind districts. As a result, for households in the bottom 15 percent at baseline, poverty fell by 20 percent. Vouchers also allowed households to purchase high-quality rice, and to increase consumption of egg-based proteins. Overall leakage from the program was not affected, and we find little effect on aggregate prices. The results suggest that the change from in-kind to vouchers led to substantial impacts through the way it changed how programs were implemented on the ground.


For more information about the Seminar Series, please visit the Seminar Schedule homepage.