There are over 8 million internationally sponsored children in the world. With the average monthly sponsorship level set at about $30 (not including other gifts sent to sponsored children), the flow of resources from wealthy countries to poor countries from international child sponsorships is about $3.2 billion per year.
Despite the substantial amounts of money being funneled through these child-sponsorship charities, few empirical studies have been conducted to gauge their effectiveness. Earlier this year peer-reviewed, independent study on the viability of international child sponsorship led by Bruce Wydick, professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, found that “large and statistically significant impacts on life outcomes for children enrolled in Compassion International’s Christian child sponsorship program.”
In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Wydick explains how he approached the research and reveals some of the findings:
The results in our other five countries confirm the positive impact of Compassion’s child-sponsorship program in Uganda. In all six countries, we find that sponsorship results in better educational outcomes for children. Overall, sponsorship makes children 27 to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school, and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education. Child sponsorship also appears to be the great equalizer in education: In areas where outcomes are worse, such as sub-Saharan Africa, impacts are bigger. In countries where existing outcomes aren’t as bad, like in India and the Philippines, impacts are significant but smaller. In countries where existing outcomes are higher among boys, the impact on girls is larger; in countries where the existing educational outcomes are higher for girls, the impact on boys is larger. We even find some evidence for spillover effects on the unsponsored younger siblings of sponsored children.
To put it simply, thes educational impacts of sponsorship are large—roughly equal to the substantial effects of the Rosenwald Schools program that from 1913–31 educated blacks in the Jim Crow South. They are roughly double those of Oportunidades, the celebrated conditional-cash-transfer program that gives cash to mothers in Mexico for keeping their children in school. It’s so successful, it has been replicated in dozens of developing countries around the world with financial incentives from the World Bank.
Compassion’s results extend beyond school attendance. We found that child sponsorship means that when the child grows up, he is 14–18 percent more likely to obtain a salaried job, and 35 percent more likely to obtain a white-collar job. Many of the Compassion-sponsored children become teachers as adults instead of remaining jobless or working in menial agricultural labor. We found some evidence that they are more likely to grow up to be both community leaders and church leaders.