The Localized Geography of Foreign Aid: A New Dataset and Application to Violent Armed Conflict
Michael G. Findley, Josh Powell, Daniel Strandow, Jeff Tanner
Existing foreign aid databases – the OECD’s CRS data and now AidData – are project-based. And yet nearly all empirical analyses using these data aggregate to the country-year level, thereby losing project-specific information. In this paper, we introduce new data on the geographic location of aid projects that have been committed to many African countries between 1989 and 2008. The data enable an examination of project-level information in a wider variety of systematic research contexts. To demonstrate the utility of the new data, we discuss how geographically disaggregated foreign aid and armed conflict data are needed to capture the theoretical mechanisms in the aid-conflict literature. We then map the disaggregated aid and conflict data in Sierra Leone, Angola, and Mozambique as specific examples of how these data could help disentangle competing causal mechanisms linking aid to conflict onset and dynamics. The research provides an important new perspective on the connections between aid and conflict. More generally, it is a crucial first step in geo-referencing and comparing foreign aid projects to various localized development outcomes.