We have all seen the commercials on television. Many of them readily fall under the broad name of “poverty porn,” and most of them feature resigned-looking developing-world children set against a sad soundtrack. All of them ask us to help by sponsoring a child in a developing country.
But does international child sponsorship work? In a new article (older, ungated copy here) in the Journal of Political Economy, Bruce Wydick, Paul Glewwe, and Laine Rutledge give an answer that is bound to surprise many development cynics:
Child sponsorship is a leading form of direct aid from wealthy country households to children in developing countries. Over 9 million children are supported through international sponsorship organizations. Using data from six countries, we estimate impacts on several outcomes from sponsorship through Compassion International, a leading child sponsorship organization. To identify program effects, we utilize an age-eligibility rule implemented when programs began in new villages. We find large, statistically significant impacts on years of schooling; primary, secondary, and tertiary school completion; and the probability and quality of employment. Early evidence suggests that these impacts are due, in part, to increases in children’s aspirations.