What determines foreign aid after a disaster?

When it comes to Uncle Sam doling out disaster
relief dollars to foreign countries, it apparently helps to be a friend
of the United States and to catch the eye of the New York Times.  That’s because each news story in the Times about a
natural disaster abroad produces more than a half-million dollars more
in U.S. disaster relief than what the stricken country otherwise would
have received, based on the magnitude of the calamity and other
factors, claim three political scientists who have studied the politics
of disaster relief.

A. Cooper Drury of the University of Missouri, Richard Stuart Olson of
Florida International University and Douglas A. Van Belle of New
Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington compiled data on 2,337
natural catastrophes occurring between 1964 and the end of 1995,
including how often stories about a disaster appeared in the Times.

The Times, in this context, serves as a proxy for general media attention.  Furthermore:

…disaster assistance is awash in politics at every step of the process.
For example, basic foreign policy concerns have a huge impact on the
initial decision of whether to give aid. Allies of the United States
are about seven times more likely than non-allies or neutral countries
to win OFDA approval. And while the Cold War may have brought the world
to the brink of nuclear extinction, those were the salad days of
disaster relief: Awards were significantly larger during the Cold War
years than they are now…

Here is the story; scroll down further for an interesting but flawed discussion of social security and demography (what about birth control pills?).  So far I cannot find the paper itself on line.


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