I also believe that aid and development programs aimed at alleviating poverty need to be critically evaluated. Indeed, it is painful to acknowledge that some are not just inefficient or ineffective but can even be counter-productive. This is an important message of the wonderful book Poor Economics that my son and I just finished reading. The point is made from a Christian point of view in When helping hurts that my wife has read.
Hence, I was very interested to see the results of an extensive and independent study by a team of economists of the effectiveness of Compassion's programs. The study
Does International Child Sponsorship Work? A Six-Country Study of Impacts on Adult Life Outcomes was published in the Journal of Political Economy. Here is the abstract:
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.