Professor Daniel Nielson, along with Professor Helen Milner from Princeton University, will measure the impact of foreign aid by identifying the effects of different sources of new government revenues on citizens’ willingness to take action to promote better governance in Uganda.
Start: May 8, 2014
End: June 30, 2014
Contract Terms: World Bank
- Principal Investigator: Daniel Nielson
- Co-Pi’s:Professor Helen Milner of Princeton University
In the development world, natural resource rents and foreign aid are sometimes viewed as “windfall revenues”, meaning that these funds can cause more harm than good. Development funds from foreign countries and NGOs are often seen as enabling corruption and undermining trustworthy governance. These negative side effects mean that development funds might never reach the individual citizens that were supposed to be reached by these programs. Current research in development practices often involves cross-national, observational data. This generalized data reduces the researchers’ ability to determine how individuals respond to new revenues from different sources. Professors Nielson of BYU and Milner of Princeton University propose to evaluate the impact of foreign aid on Uganda’s citizens with a new research method, hoping to more effectively reach the individual instead of the broad information that has previously been gathered. Uganda was chosen as a prime location for this project because of its high levels of foreign assistance and the recent discovery of oil fields. This will allow the researchers to conduct an analysis of how Ugandan citizens react to new revenue. Nielson and Milner hope to produce a more conclusive evaluation of these reactions. They intend to focus on voters’ evaluations of government performance and their willingness to support elected officials. Nielson and Milner will also study the individual effects of different sources of new revenue on citizens’ willingness to promote better governance. The study will involve a field experiment on a representative sample of Ugandan citizens, as well as a sample of Members of Parliament. These participants will be randomized into 1 of 3 treatment conditions and asked a variety of questions that gather their opinions as to how new revenue should be spent, whether it will affect political stability in Uganda, etc. They then will be invited to participate in anti-corruption activities.
Nielson and Milner have received funding from the World Bank in order to conduct this important research. This research is unique because it departs from traditional research in this field, which has historically used cross-national, observational data. Rather, Nielson and Milner will conduct their research on a micro-level regarding how individual citizens and taxpayers respond to revenue changes. They will also be gathering invaluable information from Ugandan citizens on how to reduce the volume of government corruption that takes place in regards to development funds.
Although this research will only be conducted in one developing country, their findings could have a broader impact towards the use of development funds in Uganda, and other countries. Other countries with similar situations involving foreign aid and its effect on citizens’ attitudes towards government can glean information from this study. Additionally, the anti-corruption activities will reflect ways in which government corruption might be curbed, increasing the development funds that are correctly applied to the proposed projects and providing more support to individual citizens.