NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

America The Generous

August 21, 2002

America's critics charge that we are stingy when it comes to foreign aid. True, our official government aid as a percentage of Gross National Product puts us in last place among developed countries. But that only concerns public-sector contributions.

Americans privately give at least $34 billion overseas -- more than three times official U.S. foreign aid of $10 billion.

What are the channels of this private largess?

  • International giving by U.S. foundations totals at least $1.5 billion per year -- and probably much more when all the figures are added up.
  • Charitable giving by U.S. businesses now comes to at least $2.8 billion annually.
  • American non-governmental organizations -- such as the Catholic Relief Foundation and Save the Children -- supply $6.6 billion in grants, goods and volunteers.
  • Religious overseas ministries come up with $3.4 billion for health care, literacy training, relief and development -- while colleges give $1.3 billion in scholarships to foreign students.

In 2000, immigrants to the U.S. sent home $18 billion to their families in developing countries. These remittances don't require the expensive services of government consultants and they don't wind up in the pockets of corrupt foreign officials.

Several other factors to keep in mind: First, our government gave more foreign aid, in absolute terms, than any other country in 2001. Second, the U.S. has long provided the most foreign direct investment in developing countries. Third, the U.S. provides the bulk of the world's research and development funds. And finally, we give far and away the most military assistance -- which helps make the world safe for economic growth and democracy.

Source: Carol Adelman (Hudson Institute), "America's Helping Hand," Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2002.


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