The Kinky Effects of Aid

I came across a new and interesting NBER working paper called “The Effect of Aid on Growth: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment” by  Sebastian Galiani, Stephen Knack, Ben Zou, and Lixin Colin Xu.

Here’s the abstract:
The literature on aid and growth has not found a convincing instrumental variable to identify the causal effects of aid. This paper exploits an instrumental variable based on the fact that since 1987, eligibility for aid from the International Development Association (IDA) has been based partly on whether or not a country is below a certain threshold of per capita income. The paper finds evidence that other donors tend to reinforce rather than compensate for reductions in IDA aid following threshold crossings. Overall, aid as a share of gross national income (GNI) drops about 59 percent on average after countries cross the threshold. Focusing on the 35 countries that have crossed the income threshold from below between 1987 and 2010, a positive, statistically significant, and economically sizable effect of aid on growth is found. A one percentage point increase in the aid to GNI ratio from the sample mean raises annual real per capita growth in gross domestic product by approximately 0.35 percentage points.

I like the approach and have often wondered whether donor country thresholds make a difference. I have to say that I like my title better than theirs though!

4 thoughts on “The Kinky Effects of Aid

  1. that is a big effect. people either need to

    1. figure out what’s wrong this this paper
    2. sharply revise upwards their opinions about aid

    (paper has been knocking around for a while, does appearance as NBER signal something?)

  2. Isn’t this systematic bias? They are defaulting to scenarios where aid has had the biggest effect (or was by luck associated with the biggest effect).

  3. Probably it is me, but I cannot find in the article how they treat the effect of Loans and grants. Often ODA numbers just lump loans and grants together, although OECD/DAC has a way to account for the difference. If they are lumped together it is as if countries are credit card junkies, treating loans as a grant.

    Of course, this approach just mixing up loans and grants in one table increases the perceived weight of the WB .

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