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Foreign aid and structural transformation: Micro-level evidence from Uganda

Authors Pelle Ahlerup
Publisher University of Gothenburg
Place of publication Gothenburg
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Economics
Language en
Keywords foreign aid, structural transformation, Africa, AidData, LSMS
Subject categories Economics


History tells us that sustained economic growth, necessary to alleviate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, requires growth in the fundamentals, such as infrastructure and human capital, but also structural transformation, i.e., a reallocation of labor from low-productivity to high-productivity sectors. I study whether foreign aid is a factor that helps or hinders structural transformation. I use a dataset on aid projects with precise coordinates from all major donors and match it to panel data with extensive information on labor market activities for a large representative sample of individuals in Uganda. I find consistent evidence that foreign aid reverses the process of structural transformation. More specifically, the local short-term effect of foreign aid is that people in areas with ongoing aid projects work more in agriculture and less in non-agricultural sectors. There are no significant effects on wages or household expenditures for people in the agricultural sector, but the effects on people in non-agricultural sectors are negative.

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