Reconsidering Americans’ Overestimates of Government Waste and Foreign Aid

Reconsidering Americans’ Overestimates of Government Waste and Foreign Aid. Urban Institute. Vanessa Williamson. March 30, 2018

 Widespread and profound public misinformation about government presents a serious challenge to democratic accountability. This paper demonstrates that two of the most common examples of public misperception may be systematically overestimated; public misperceptions of “foreign aid” spending and “government waste” are in substantial part explained by differences of elite and popular terminology. Failure to take into account what members of the public mean by waste and foreign aid has led researchers, journalists and public officials to misunderstand meaningful public critiques of U.S. policy. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 4 pages].

Foreign aid 101: A Quick and Easy Guide to Understanding US Foreign Aid

Foreign aid 101: A Quick and Easy Guide to Understanding US Foreign Aid. Fourth edition. Oxfam International. October 2017.

Foreign aid contributes to global poverty reduction, helps protect basic rights and liberties, and benefits America’s interests – all for less than one percent of the US federal budget. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 24 pages, 6.75 MB].

Does Foreign Aid Work? Efforts to Evaluate U.S. Foreign Assistance

Does Foreign Aid Work? Efforts to Evaluate U.S. Foreign Assistance. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Marian Leonardo Lawson. June 23, 2016.

In most cases, the success or failure of U.S. foreign aid programs is not entirely clear, in part because historically, most aid programs have not been evaluated for the purpose of determining their actual impact. Many programs are not even evaluated on basic performance. The purpose and methodologies of foreign aid evaluation have varied over the decades, responding to political and fiscal circumstances. Aid evaluation practices and policies have variously focused on meeting program management needs, building institutional learning, accounting for resources, informing policymakers, and building local oversight and project design capacity. Challenges to meaningful aid evaluation have varied as well, but several are recurring. Persistent challenges to effective evaluation include unclear aid objectives, funding and personnel constraints, emphasis on accountability for funds, methodological challenges, compressed timelines, country ownership and donor coordination commitments, security, and agency and personnel incentives.

[PDF format, 29 pages, 787.61 KB].

Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy

Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Curt Tarnoff and Marian L. Lawson. June 17, 2016.

Foreign assistance is a fundamental component of the international affairs budget and is viewed by many as an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. On the basis of national security, commercial, and humanitarian rationales, U.S. assistance flows through many federal agencies and supports myriad objectives, including promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, improving governance, expanding access to health care and education, promoting stability in conflictive regions, countering terrorism, promoting human rights, strengthening allies, and curbing illicit drug production and trafficking. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, foreign aid has increasingly been associated with national security policy. At the same time, foreign aid is seen by many Americans, and Members of Congress, as an expense that the United States cannot afford given current budget deficits.

[PDF format, 38 pages, 1.1 MB].