How Effective Is Foreign Aid at Improving Health Outcomes in Recipient Countries?

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Since the United Nations’ establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 the world has observed an increasing trend in foreign aid provided by more affluent countries to developing nations. This paper examined whether foreign aid (total foreign aid and health sector aid) has been effective in improving the health of citizens in recipient nations since establishment of the MDGs. Five facets of population health were examined: infant mortality, life expectancy, the annual death rate, and immunizations against measles and diphtheria. Using a panel data set covering 90 developing countries, observed annually over 2001–2015, fixed-effects multivariate regressions with alternative specifications were estimated for each of these measures. The findings reveal that foreign aid has had little to no effect on population health since 2000. We found some evidence that foreign aid has improved life expectancy in developing countries, however, the effect is very small. In light of these findings, continued monitoring of the relationship between foreign aid and health outcomes would be both valuable and prudent.

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Correspondence to Mohammad Usama Toseef.

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Toseef, M.U., Jensen, G.A. & Tarraf, W. How Effective Is Foreign Aid at Improving Health Outcomes in Recipient Countries?. Atl Econ J (2020) doi:10.1007/s11293-019-09645-2

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  • Foreign aid
  • Health outcomes
  • Developing countries


  • I15
  • O19