Impact of Regime Type on the Influence of U.S. Foreign Aid


  • Authors' note: An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 2004. The authors thank Erik Voeten, Emily Lai, Sarah Morey, Charles Shipan, participants of the Iowa Political Science Workshop Series, and several anonymous reviewers for their very useful comments. The authors also thank Sara Strain, Katie McQuaid, Meghan Dolan, and Wesley Kuehlthau for their research assistance.


Past studies of U.S. foreign aid and UN voting have not taken into account the different incentives of leaders based on regime type. Democratic and nondemocratic leaders use different means to remain in power, conditioning their response to foreign aid. Nondemocratic leaders can use foreign aid to provide private goods to elites ensuring continued support or to improve their coercive capabilities to maintain power. Democratic leaders can use neither of these tools, as their tenure requires mass support. This means nondemocracies are more likely than democracies to change their voting behavior in the UN to match donor preferences. Controlling for the influence of regime type allows us to test for when foreign aid is an effective tool of state policy. We find that nondemocratic state leaders respond to increased foreign aid by voting with the U.S. in the UN, whereas democratic leaders are nonresponsive to foreign aid.