The FINANCIAL -- The United States’ primary foreign aid
organization, USAID, spent about 43 billion dollars over the last fiscal
year to develop economies and democraciesaround the world. This
charitable givingdoesn’t comeonly from compassion and fraternity;
numerous reports from the agency state primary end-goals like promoting
US national security, opening markets to American investment, and
protecting US personnel overseas. In short, its job is to promote
America’s interests by way of good will development projects.
and Evaluating forsuch projectsisthe primary specialty of the research
firm for which I work (GORBI), but this week I’ll be discussing USAID’s
success in its longer term goal of pro-American sentiment. As you’re
about to see,they seem to be doingastoundingly well.
To judge “return
on investment,” we’ll be using data from the most recent wave of the EU
Neighborhood Barometer, carried out by TNS opinion and Georgian Opinion
Research Business International (GORBI), funded by the EU. GORBI was
responsible for surveying people in Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine , and the
three Caucasian countries. We’ll look at how often respondents
identified the US as “one of the actors capable of most effectively
helping economic development in our country,” and compare it to how much
USAID spent per-person in FY 2012.
Where Did the Money Go?
predictably tops the charts for US spending with a staggering $395 per
capita, a total of more than 3 billion USD. They are also far and above
the most confident in the US’s development capabilities, with 71% of
Israelis mentioning the US. In fact, they were the only country more
likely to mention the US than the European Union as a capable developer.
pulled in a still-quite-respectable 19 bucks a head and is second
runner-up in the US cheerleading club. At the same time Belarusians,who
rank at the bottom of the ENPI East, get about a dollar and don’t give
the US a second thought. This trend becomes less stable at the bottom
of the ENPI South, where some countries have much more faith in the US
than a dollar-for- point investment structure would suggest: Moroccans
get even less than Belarusians but are in third place in their
confidence in US development.
These numbers do seem to imply a
pretty strong relationship between dollars spent and confidence in the
US, but our brains can play tricks on us. So, I ran a simple Pearson
correlation and was taken aback;the number that popped out was a .8. If
you pay any attention to correlations, you realize just howhigh .8 is –
the strength of this relationship is usually reserved for things like
“church attendance and religiosity.”
I’m obligated here to remind
you that correlation is not causation: it’s very possible that USAID
rewards western-looking populations rather than advertising to them.
Furthermore, USAID is surely not the only interaction that the American
government has with a country, and attitudes might be likewise linked to
some other factors. It seems reasonable, though, that US charitable
investment would be closely related to other diplomatic efforts and
therefore a good, concrete measurement of its greater foreign policy.
our sample is small and variables are fairly one-dimensional, my
interest is piqued. Over the next few weeks I’ll be collecting data on
more international aid organizations, such as the UN and EU, with the
hope of discovering which of these groups seem to be putting their money
in the “right” places.
All USAID investment numbers come from
congressional reports, and population numbers from each country’s most
recent official censuses. Visit our website at gorbi.com for more