Foreign aid preferences and perceptions in donor countries

Daniel Kaufmann, Eoin F. McGuirk, Pedro C. Vicente

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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We present original survey data on preferences for foreign aid in 24 donor countries from 2005 to 2008. On publicly-funded foreign aid (Official Development Assistance, or ODA), we find patterns that are consistent with a standard model of democratic policy formation, in which donations are treated as a pure public good. Controlling for perceptions of current ODA, we show that individual preferences for ODA are (i) negatively correlated with relative income within a country-year; and (ii) positively correlated with inequality at the country level. We extend the analysis to explain variation in the gap between desired aid and actual ODA, arguing that lobbying by high-income special interest groups can divert resources away from the median voter's preferred level of aid. Consistent with this, we observe that ODA is significantly lower where policymakers are more susceptible to lobbying. Finally, we present a novel test of competing “crowding out” hypotheses. Self-reported private aid donations are negatively correlated with actual ODA, and positively correlated with perceived ODA. This finding is consistent with an emerging argument in the literature, whereby ODA crowds out private aid by enabling charities to forego fundraising activities and crowds in private aid through a signaling channel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-617
JournalJournal Of Comparative Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Democracy
  • Foreign aid
  • Political economy
  • Public goods


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