In conferences on RRA the 'tarmac' or 'main road bias' has been frequently listed among the biases affecting outsiders' observations and perceptions of rural poverty. Referring to fieldwork carried out in the southwestern costal zone of Sri Lanka, the paper illustrates some of the misconceptions that can result from 'tarmac' bias. Using the core-periphery approach, the paper concludes that the poor may not even be found just by taking a path off the main road. Also noted is the use of housing standard as a good approximation against which to measure success in the war against roadside and other kinds of anti-poor observational bias.
Fieldworkers, researchers and practitioners and those concerned with research at the community and project level.
Institute of Development Studies