GINI, what’s your number?

With the recent fall of the global economy and rise in the specter of austerity, it was greatly feared that development aid budgets would be slashed. There has also been the questioning of the effectiveness of aid. If public opinion turned against development aid, that would give the various governments in the OECD and elsewhere the opportunity and excuse to slash their aid budgets even further than they already have.

Within this context, Christina Haas from the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies has recently come forward with an analysis of public opinion and support for development aid in Europe. Specifically, she explored the question of how inequality at home would affect the level of support for development aid, along with a couple other factors. Interestingly enough, the higher the income inequality at home, as measured through the GINI index, the more support there was for their government to provide international aid. In this context, support was very high in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, countries reeling from the financial crisis of 2007. It was also found that higher educational attainment increases support for aid, while women tend to support development aid more than men. The last significant finding from this study was that the amount of aid that your country provides has no effect on public opinion on support for more aid.

Support for aid in Europe
Support for aid in Europe

There are a few issues with the report itself. The survey is measured by only one question done by Eurobarameter, which the wording changed over time. People are less likely to answer negatively so that they don’t seem heartless and because they feel that is what they want the people providing the survey to hear. These are also solely based on European respondents, so pan-European cultural values and norms could be skewing the results of the survey and the analysis afterwards. Still, it is interesting that the generally held assumption that the more equal societies of Northern Europe support aid more than other less equal societies.

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