Aid, Policies, and Growth: Revisiting the Evidence

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Burnside and Dollar revisit the relationship between aid and growth using a new data set focusing on the 1990s. The evidence supports the view that the impact of aid depends on the quality of state institutions and policies. The authors use an overall measure of institutions and policies popular in the empirical growth literature. The interaction of aid and institutional quality has a robust positive relationship with growth that is strongest in instrumental variable regressions. There is no support for the competing hypothesis that aid has the same positive effect everywhere. The authors also show that in the 1990s the allocation of aid to low-income countries favored those with better institutional quality. This "selectivity" is sensible if aid in fact is more productive in sound institutional and policy environments. The cross-country evidence on aid effectiveness is supported by other types of information as well: case studies, project-level evidence, and opinion polls support the view that corrupt institutions and weak policies limit the impact of financial assistance for development. This paper - a product of the Development Economics Vice Presidency - is part of a larger effort in the Bank to research aid effectiveness.







A. Craig Burnside

Mary Grace Wilson Distinguished Professor

Burnside’s fields of specialization include macroeconomics and international finance. His recent research focuses on foreign exchange markets, empirical methods in finance, and the behavior of prices in housing markets.

He has published articles in a number of academic journals, including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, the Review of Economic Studies, and the Review of Financial Studies.

He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and was previously a member of the Board of Editors of the American Economic Review (2001-06, 2011-20), Associate Editor for the Review of Economics and Statistics (2012-15), co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Economics (2007-10), and Associate Editor for the Journal of Money Credit and Banking (2003-11).

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