Foreign Aid and Domestic Politics: Voting in Congress and the Allocation of USAID Contracts across Congressional Districts

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Original Publication Date

January 1, 2001


Robert K. Fleck, Christopher Kilby


Southern Economic Journal


This paper investigates the relationship between congressional support for foreign aid and the distribution of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contract spending across congressional districts within the United States. The extent to which such a relationship matters has become increasingly important in recent years, as the end of the Cold War and the advent of the Republican-controlled Congress have eroded the traditional base of support for foreign aid. We develop a model to illustrate how the distribution of contract spending could be used to increase support for foreign aid, but at the expense of development impact, in effect trading quality for quantity. Data on domestic foreign aid contract spending and votes in the 104th Congress House of Representatives allow us to test whether the geographic distribution of USAID contract spending within the United States is consistent with a systematic attempt to build support for foreign aid in Congress. Econometric results provide little evidence of such attempts, apparently because voting on this issue is insensitive to the distribution of contract spending.

Replication data available upon request from the author. Please contact Dr. Christopher Kilby at