Foreign Aid

In response to natural disasters, overwhelming poverty, and general challenges to economic growth in the developing world, governments and other donors instinctively respond with a broad spectrum of assistance. At PEDL scholars, working closely with student researchers, pursue research that evaluates the nature and efficacy of these aid activities. They work on a variety of research projects, while simultaneously working to improve AidData, the largest foreign aid database of it's kind. Seven years ago, disappointed with the limited availability of information on aid activities, researchers at BYU, in collaboration with researchers from the College of William and Mary, began to gather information on aid flows. Then called Project-Level Aid (PLAID), the database sought to furnish information on every individual project committed by bilateral and multilateral aid donors since 1973. Over the years the project has expanded it's data collection, coding, and visualization efforts. These expanded efforts were magnified when, in December 2009, PLAID scholars formed a partnership with Development Gateway​, the sponsors of AiDa, another foreign aid data aggregator. On March 24, 2010 a new database and web portal was launched called AidData. AidData replaces its successors, PLAID and AiDa, and is currently the most comprehensive database on international development finance in the world. Cataloging nearly one million projects financed between 1945 and 2009, it encompasses over $1.9 trillion in development financing. In their scholarly work, PEDL researchers are now utilizing this resource to study allocation and impact in the following sectors: education, environment, health, human rights, democracy, terrorism, and conflict. To explore AidData, please find us at For more information on our current research, see our publications and working papers.

Working Papers:

  • Joshua Loud and Daniel L. Nielson. "Does Adjustment Lending Work? Policy Reforms in the Wake of Program Lending.​" Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.
  • Richard Nielsen and Daniel Nielson. "Triage for Democracy: How Governance Aid Improves Governance." Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston.
  • Daniel Nielson and Christopher O'Keefe. "IOs as Norms Platforms: The World Bank’s Influence on Environmental Practice at the Islamic Development Bank." Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, San Francisco.
  • Daniels Nielson and Michael J. Tierney. "Principals and Interests: Common Agency and Multilateral Development Bank Lending." Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.
  • Zachary Christensen, Richard Nielson, Daniel Nielson, and Michael Tierney. "Transparency Squared: The Effects of Donor Transparency on Recipient Corruption Levels​."