Monday, February 1 2021
Stefano Jud (Emory University), “Foreign Relief Aid and Political Attitudes: Evidence from Sierra Leone during the Ebola Epidemic”
Studies have shown that governments with effective responses to natural disasters can strengthen citizens’ political attitudes, such as votes and support for the government. These studies implicitly assume that a national government controls the disaster relief response, but this assumption is not always valid in the context of developing countries who receive a large portion of financial and material resources for disaster relief from international donors. These cases raise the question whether citizens attribute foreign relief aid to their own government and if so, whether that positively or negatively effects their political attitudes towards their own government. I investigate this attribution question in the context of Sierra Leone and take advantage of the influx of relief aid into the country during the Ebola Crisis in 2014-2016. Using the locations of Ebola treatment facilities (ETFs) supported by international donors and NGOs as a measure for the presence of foreign relief aid, I estimate whether people living near these facilities express different levels of trust in their government institutions than people living further away. Based on geo-referenced Afrobarometer survey data from 2012 and 2015, I implement a difference-in-differences strategy to estimate the causal effect of foreign relief aid on trust. I find that people living near foreign relief aid perceive the government as less trustworthy. I attribute the lower levels of trust to perceived incompetence of the domestic government because of the need for international funding and from the negative externalities related to the ETFs on local individuals.