Overseas Economic Aid or Domestic Electoral Assistance: The Political Economy of Foreign Aid Voting in the U.S. Congress

30 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2010 Last revised: 8 Sep 2010

See all articles by Ryan M. Powers

Ryan M. Powers

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science

David A. Leblang

University of Virginia; University of Virginia - College of Arts and Sciences; University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics; University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

Michael J. Tierney

College of William and Mary

Date Written: September 1, 2010

Abstract

Each year, Congress authorizes the transfer of approximately $27 billion to foreign countries in the form of foreign development assistance. Despite the "foreign aid" label, much of this money remains in the United States, flowing to individuals and corporations who contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other government agencies to implement development projects. But despite its long history, little is known about the domestic political economy of U.S. foreign aid. We extend the literature by showing that the domestic political economy of foreign aid spending is more significant and dynamic than the current literature suggests. We find that members of Congress are more likely to support foreign aid bills when foreign aid beneficiaries are present in their district. In addition, we show incumbents are less likely to be reelected if they vote for foreign aid bills while in office. Using new data, however, we find that when a given member's vote for foreign aid is coincident with his or her district receiving contracts from USAID, the negative effects of supporting foreign aid are mitigated.

Suggested Citation

Powers, Ryan M. and Leblang, David A. and Tierney, Michael J., Overseas Economic Aid or Domestic Electoral Assistance: The Political Economy of Foreign Aid Voting in the U.S. Congress (September 1, 2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1657451

Ryan M. Powers (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science ( email )

1050 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

David A. Leblang

University of Virginia ( email )

PO Box 400787
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

University of Virginia - College of Arts and Sciences ( email )

VA
United States

University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics ( email )

PO Box 400787
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy ( email )

235 McCormick Rd.
P.O. Box 400893
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4893
United States

Michael J. Tierney

College of William and Mary ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States

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