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Research Shows Dramatic Benefits to International Child Sponsorship


New research by economics Professor Bruce Wydick shows that international child sponsorship works.

You've seen the TV commercials asking you to sponsor a child in the developing world, but does the $3 billion spent every year to sponsor those children do any good? That's the question USF economics Professor Bruce Wydick asked, and the answer shocked him and other experts.

“It has always been very difficult for donors and nonprofits to make the case that child sponsorship works. Here we have research that shows it does,” Wydick said.

Higher incomes

He found that sponsored children earned 15 percent higher incomes, lived in better-constructed homes, and were more likely to be leaders in their church and community than their non-sponsored siblings. They were also 27 to 40 percent more likely to finish secondary school and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete college.

“As a development economist, I am used to seeing very modest outcomes from aid programs," said Wydick. "But we were amazed at the size of the impacts on these kids.” 

The five-year study is among the most definitive yet in the longstanding debate over the effectiveness of child sponsorship. The findings were published in the Journal of Political Economy and attracted international attention, including coverage by the BBC and other media. 

More optimistic and productive

The study was based on interviews with 10,000 adults in six countries, including those who were and were not sponsored as children and their families. The interviews were conducted with former clients of Compassion International, a Christian nonprofit that sponsors children in Bolivia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, the Philippines, and Uganda, as well as non-clients, for comparison. 

Wydick was the lead researcher on the project, which he conducted with colleagues Paul Glewwe (University of Minnesota) and Laine Rurledge (University of Washington). 

Wydick’s follow-up studies suggest that sponsored children also have higher self-esteem, and are more optimistic and productive than non-sponsored children.

by Ed Carpenter »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanews