U.S. Outgives the World The United States gives more aid to developing countries than any other nation, Scotsman.com reported. In a recent study by the Hudson Institute, the U.S. gave 15 times more than its European neighbors. In advance of the G8 summit and campaigns by Make Poverty History and Live 8, the study shows Americans are more generous than many claim. Church collections, philanthropists and company giving amounted to $22 billion. That is compared to a European Union average of $1.6 billion in private-sector giving. The numbers get more impressive in light of the fact that 12 percent of the immigrant population sends more than $40 billion in aid to their home countries. President Bush has pledged to take African aid from $1.2 billion to $8.7 billion by 2010.Go team. But this statistic represents the grossest, most blatant attempt to mislead available to presenters of statistics. It's talking about a gross number! The United States gives more money than EU countries do -- this is easily explained by the well-established scientific fact that -- drumroll -- the United States is bigger! FOTF didn't provide a link or any specific information about the Scotsman.com article they refer to, but I managed to find it with a few targeted searches. Here it is. (Free registration, or bugmenot, required.) Sure enough, it does include this quotation:
Private American citizens donated almost 15 times more to the developing world than their European counterparts, research reveals this weekend ahead of the G8 summit. Private US donors also handed over far more aid than the federal government in Washington, revealing that America is much more generous to Africa and poor countries than is claimed by the Make Poverty History and Live 8 campaigns.So FOTF's source does offer the same spin they do. But the source is at least slightly more honest; they include this critical passage as well:
The US is the largest overall donor with its $16.3bn in 2003. But this works out as 0.15% of its GNI - the lowest of any G8 member and less than half the 0.35% EU average. Britain stands at 0.34% and Norway is the highest, with 0.92%.So, relative to the size of the economy, the U.S. is much, much less charitable than most EU countries. What about relative to population? Some rough and ready calculations: Twenty-five EU countries Average of $1.6 billion in philanthropy EU total: 25 * $1.6 billion = $40 billion EU Population: 456,863,000 Average EU philanthropy per person: $87. US total: $22 billion U.S. Population: 295,734,134 (I didn't know google could do that!) Average US philanthropy per person: $74. So the U.S. gives a bit less per capita, and a whole lot less per dollar in the economy, than Europe does. My point here is just that the "data" in question is presented ridiculously. None of this should underscore a more crucial point: the idea that the amount that other people and other countries give determines how much we ought to give would be laughable if it weren't killing so many people.