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December 31, 2004

Countries' Generosity with Foreign Aid: Drezner Post

Professor Drezner has a thorough post on the per capita foreign aid of different countries.

Of course, the United States is also the biggest economy, so the raw dollar term doesn't mean that much. What about in per capita terms? Here's the ranking of contries by relief aid per capita per day (in cents, not dollars):

1. Norway 21.04
2. Sweden 11.81
3. Denmark 5.95
4. Switzerland 5.85
5. Netherlands 5.15
6. Belgium 2.94
7. United Kingdom 2.58
8. Finland 2.38
9. United States 2.34
10. France 2.17
11. Canada 2.10
12. Australia 1.93
13. Ireland 1.83
14. Austria 1.23
15. New Zealand 1.18
16. Spain 0.61
17. Germany 0.61
18. Italy 0.42
19. Greece 0.27
20. Japan 0.06
21. Portugal 0.03


Even if you factor in private giving, the United States ranks 19th out of 21 rich countries in terms of per capita expenditures, according to the 2004 Ranking the Rich exercise. Here's a link to the background paper for those curious about the methodology, which factors in the extent to which aid is "tied" (requiring recipients to spend it {inefficiently} on donor country goods) and whether the aid is going to governments that spend the money wisely. For what it includes, the methodology on this dimension is rock-solid.

This figure does not include remittances, but as I've argued previously, it's questionable whether this reflects the generosity of Americans -- or, more importantly, whether such an inclusion would dramatically alter the rankings.

This does not mean that the United States is particularly stingy on other dimensions of helping the poor. The Ranking the Rich exercise included aid as only one of seven components -- the others are trade, investment, migration, environment, technology, and security. When you aggregate the different components, the U.S. comes in at 7th out of the 21 countries (intriguingly, among the G-7, the Anglosphere countries -- Great Britain, Canada, and the U.S. -- come in at 1-2-3). It turns out that the U.S. is comparatively more generous on other dimensions.

*A final note: Matthew Yglesias correctly points out that the comment triggering the whole debate was not aimed specifically at the United States:

What the UN official actually said was that rich countries including the US are stingy with aid money. ...

"It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really," the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. "Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become."

"There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy," he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more." (emphases added)

Posted by erasmuse at December 31, 2004 07:24 AM

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