Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Refutation of A "Fact"

Throughout my life, I have heard over and over -- primarily from my mother, the queen of made-up statistics, but from many others as well -- that the United States supports the world with foreign aid, only to be spit on or worse by the ungrateful citizens of the developing world.
Thanks to Nicholas Kristof in yesterday's New York Times for providing some numbers to refute this nasty view:

"Americans give 15 cents per day per person in official development assistance to poor countries. The average American spends four times that on soft drinks daily.
"In 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, we increased such assistance by one-fifth, for President Bush has actually been much better about helping poor countries than President Clinton was. But as a share of our economy, our contribution still left us ranked dead last among 22 top donor countries.
"We gave 15 cents for every $100 of national income to poor countries. Denmark gave 84 cents, the Netherlands gave 80 cents, Belgium gave 60 cents, France gave 41 cents, and Greece gave 21 cents (that was the lowest share, beside our own).
"It is sometimes said that Americans make up for low official aid with private charitable donations. Nope. By OECD calculations, private donations add 6 cents a day to the official U.S. figure -- meaning that we still give only 21 cents a day per person."