Comparing the Foreign Aid Policies of Presidents Bush and Obama


Direct correspondence to Douglas M. Gibler, Professor of Political Science, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487 <>. Steven V. Miller is Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL <>.



We compare the rhetoric and actual foreign economic aid disbursements of the Bush and Obama Administrations.


We use U.S. foreign aid data from 2001 to 2013 (expected) to test our propositions.


Our analyses suggest strong similarities but also key differences between presidencies. First, both presidents used aid to encourage development and democracy but also ignored the human rights policies of recipient countries. We actually find human rights abuse to be positively correlated with aid receipts, even after controlling for wealth and regime type; changes in rights policies have no effect in data for either administration. Second, overall aid disbursements have not increased under President Obama in real or percentage terms, again despite campaign and inaugural promises to do otherwise. Finally, our analyses confirm the proposition that the Bush Administration favored those countries that supported the war in Iraq—the “Coalition of the Willing”—by providing them with substantially larger aid allocations than would otherwise be predicted.


The Obama Administration has seemingly reversed the unstated policy of aid payments for U.S. partnership by penalizing Coalition members with aid allocations far below the rates predicted for other, similar countries.