Which Devil in Development? A Randomized Study of Citizen Actions Supporting Foreign Aid in Uganda

47 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2012 Last revised: 14 May 2013

Helen V. Milner

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Daniel L. Nielson

Brigham Young University

Michael Findley

Brigham Young University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: May 12, 2013

Abstract

Debate over the effectiveness of foreign aid has raged on despite a paucity of information about recipients’ actual views of development assistance, especially as citizens compare aid to domestic government programs. We argue that citizens may see foreign aid as an escape from clientelism because aid is less politicized than government programs, citizens trust donors more, and they support aid conditionality. They may also favor multilateral donors over bilateral donors for similar reasons. We test the argument with a randomized experiment on a subject pool of roughly 3,600 Ugandan citizens – to our knowledge the first nationally representative, large-n study of aid recipients. We randomly assigned the project funders – multilateral banks, bilateral donors, and a control implying the domestic government – for actual co-financed “pipeline” projects and invited citizens to sign a petition and send a text message in support. We find that citizens are significantly more willing to sign a petition or send a text message in favor of foreign aid projects compared to government programs. A companion survey to the experiment reveals evidence that citizens perceive aid as less prone to politicization. Some evidence suggests that Ugandans also see multilateral donors as superior to bilaterals. The findings suggest that recipients view foreign aid as relatively effective compared to domestic government programs.

Keywords: foreign aid, development, international institutions, multilateralism, clientelism

Suggested Citation

Milner, Helen V. and Nielson, Daniel L. and Findley, Michael, Which Devil in Development? A Randomized Study of Citizen Actions Supporting Foreign Aid in Uganda (May 12, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2134409 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2134409

Helen V. Milner (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States
609-258-0181 (Phone)

Daniel L. Nielson

Brigham Young University ( email )

Provo, UT 84602
United States

Michael Findley

Brigham Young University - Department of Political Science ( email )

745 SWKT
Provo, UT 84602
United States
801.422.5317 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://politicalscience.byu.edu/faculty/mfindley/

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