Position Paper on Aid, Poverty and the Social Sectors

Abby RiddellThe effectiveness of foreign aid to education: What can be learned?
Abby Riddell

Since 1999 over 50 million more children have been enrolled in primary school, there was a significant reduction in the number of children not attending school, and a marked improvement in access to education for girls in primary education. Education aid has certainly played a role in supporting the worldwide education sector to achieve these improvements. However, the quality of education is still very low in many developing countries, and aid, alongside governments in developing countries, could do more to rectify this problem.

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> Research brief: What works? - lessons from aid to education

Arnab Acharya © Arnab Acharya

Aid effectiveness in the health sector
Melisa Martínez Álvarez and Arnab Acharya

Improving the quality and availability of healthcare in developing countries has long been seen as an important development goal by the international development community. Development assistance for health (DAH) has increased by a factor of five over the past two decades, up from US$5.82 billion in 1990 to US$27.73 billion in 2011. This dramatic increase in funds has naturally raised questions about the way in which the aid is delivered and how effective it is.

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> Research brief: Barriers to effective development assistance for health

© Finn TarpAid Effectiveness: Opening the Black Box
Channing Arndt, Sam Jones, and Finn Tarp

The question of whether aid is effective at promoting growth and development has been hotly contested for years. However, research increasingly shows that over long-term aid disbursements have had positive effects on the economy of recipient countries. But growth is not the only aim of aid. As donors continue to channel funds towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—which target, among other things, improvements in poverty reduction, primary education and health—it is important to understand how these relate to aid and its broader objectives

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> Research brief: Does aid promote development?

© Katharina Michaelowa

Making aid work for education in developing countries: an analysis of aid effectiveness for primary education coverage and quality
Kassandra Birchler and Katharina Michaelowa

The most recent evidence finds that increased aid disbursement for education lead to an increase in primary education enrolment, which is consistent with previous studies which have found a strong correlation between aid disbursement and increases in primary education enrolment. In general, doubling annual education aid per capita for a period of five consecutive years leads to a nearly six per cent rise in net enrolment rates. The impact is modest but by no means negligible.

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> Research brief: What is the effect of aid on primary enrolment and quality of education?

© Armando Barrientos

Evaluating antipoverty transfer programmes in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa: Better policies? Better politics?
Armando Barrientos and Juan M. Villa

The growth of social protection programmes aimed at reducing poverty by transferring resources to the poor has been a novel feature of development policy and practice in the last decade. Combined with other policies, transfer programmes have the capacity to make a significant contribution to global reduction of poverty and vulnerability.


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> Research brief: Evaluations: crucial for the spread of social protection programmes

International organizations and the future of education assistance
Stephen P. Heyneman and Bommi Lee

The achievement of universal education was one of the objectives set out in the Millennium Development Goals. Improving educational access has the potential to elicit significant monetary and non-monetary rewards both for the individual and for the wider community. Aid could play a vital role in helping developing countries to increase enrolments and improve educational quality.

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> Research brief: Education aid - a way forward

© Zulfigar BhuttaA review of external assistance and aid effectiveness for maternal and child health: Challenges and opportunities
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, and Samia Aleem

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on maternal and children’s health could be tantalizingly within reach if new aid initiatives can effectively replicate successful schemes from around the world.

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> Research brief: Principled aid: ways to attain MDG4 and MDG5

© Elizabeth KristjanssonCurbing early childhood undernutrition in lower and middle income countries – findings and lessons for the future
Elizabeth Kristjansson, Damian Francis, Selma Liberato, Trish Greenhalgh, Vivian Welch, and Eamonn Noonan

Undernutrition is the single biggest cause of the global burden of disease, and many of those affected are children. Early childhood undernutrition has severe consequences; it accounts for more than 35 per cent of deaths and another 35 per cent of the disease burden in children under five years old. It can harm both physical and intellectual development. Undernourished children are less likely to attend school, and those who do attend are less likely to
benefit from it.

© PB Anand

Every drop counts: Assessing aid for water and sanitation
PB Anand

Water and sanitation sectors have been the ‘natural’ subjects of aid for several decades. However, these sectors also were among those most affected by changes in aid approaches and tools. The aim of this paper is to capture some of the complexity in assessing impact and effectiveness of aid in water and sanitation sector. Notwithstanding this complexity, the paper aims to explore some of the key factors that influence successful and effective use of aid. Though the overall magnitude of aid to water supply and sanitation activities has increased significantly, it is not easy to connect aid with specific outcomes such as reduction on mortality due to waterborne diseases or number of people with improved access.

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© Iara Costa Leite

Africa-Brazil co-operation in social protection: Drivers, lessons and shifts in the engagement of the Brazilian Ministry of Social Development
Iara Costa Leite, Bianca Suyama and Melissa Pomeroy

The Brazilian Ministry of Social Development’s co-operation with sub-Saharan Africa has shifted from an initial engagement in cash transfers to a recent engagement in food and nutritional security. This paper aims at understanding the main drivers for such shift considering lessons drawn from first initiatives and from growing involvement in South-South Development Co-operation, as well as changes in the mobilization of domestic coalitions in Brazil. By doing so this paper aims at contributing to the international debate on the effectiveness of South-South Development Co-operation, unpacking challenges and opportunities faced by developing countries when allocating growing domestic human and financial resources to promote international development.

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© Bob BaulchThe Progressivity and Regressivity of Aid to the Social Sectors
Bob Baulch and Le Vi An Tam

This paper analyses the distribution of total aid and aid to the social sectors between 2009 and 2011. Its key findings are four-fold. First, despite the stated objectives of donors, total aid disbursements are broadly neutral, favouring neither the most deprived nor relatively well-off countries. Second, the pattern of social sector aid disbursements follows those for total aid. Third, the aid allocation patterns of bilateral and multilateral donors differ, with multilateral donors generally being more focused on the poorest countries. Finally, the distribution of aid for health and population is more progressive than that for education or other social sectors.

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© Miguel Niño-ZarazúaWhat can experiments tell us about how to improve governance?
Rachel M. Gisselquist, and Miguel Niño-Zarazúa

In recent years, randomized controlled trials have become increasingly popular in the social sciences. In development economics in particular, their use has attracted considerable debate in relation to the identification of ‘what works’ in development policy. This paper focuses on a core topic in development policy: governance. It aims to address two key questions: (1) ‘what have the main contributions of randomized controlled trials been to the study of governance?’ and (2) ‘what could be the contributions, and relatedly the limits of such methods?’.

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Class size versus composition: Do they matter for learning in East Africa?
Sam Jones


Raising schooling quality in low-income countries is a pressing challenge. Substantial research has considered the impact of cutting class sizes on skills acquisition. Considerably less attention has been given to the extent to which peer effects, which refer to class composition, also may affect outcomes. This study uses new microdata from East Africa, incorporating test score data for over 250,000 children, to compare the likely efficacy of these two types of interventions. Endogeneity bias is addressed via fixed effects and instrumental variables techniques. Although these may not fully mitigate bias from omitted variables, the preferred IV results indicate considerable negative effects due to larger class sizes and larger numbers of overage-for-grade peers. The latter, driven by the highly prevalent practices of grade repetition and academic redshirting, should be considered an important target for policy interventions.

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The porous dialectic: Experimental and non-experimental methods in development economics
Rajeev Dehejia

This paper provides a survey of six widely used non-experimental methods for estimating the impact of programmes in the context of developing economies (instrumental variables, regression discontinuity, direct matching, propensity score matching, linear regression and non-parametric methods, and difference-in-differences), and assesses their internal and external validity relative both to each other and to randomized controlled trials. While randomized controlled trials can achieve the highest degree of internal validity when cleanly implemented in the field, the availability of large, nationally representative datasets offers the opportunity for a high degree of external validity using non-experimental methods. Whereas these methods are often presented as competing alternatives, we argue that each method has merits in some context and that experimental and non-experimental methods are complements rather than substitutes.

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Donor coordination for effective government policies? Implementation of the new aid effectiveness agenda in health and education in Zambia
Stefan Leiderer

There is a growing interest in the debate on aid effectiveness for assessing the impact of aid not only on economic growth and poverty reduction, but also on intermediate outcomes such as health and education. This paper reviews evidence from recent in-depth country work on the impact of government policies and service provision in health and basic education in Zambia, and examines to what extent new aid approaches have contributed to the observed outcomes.

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