Do middle-income countries really get more aid than low-income countries?

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Owen Barder
Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development, and an Associate of the Institute for Government. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen was a London 2012 Gamesmaker.

This blog post, co-authored with Matt Juden, first appeared on Views from the Center In a recent TV documentary, Professor Hans Rosling suggested that middle-income countries (MICs) get three times as much aid per person in poverty as countries which are further back in their development. Political pressure to spend more aid in fragile and conflict-affected states—and to spend more of the aid budget on refugees displaced by conflict—has led to concern among policy-makers that poor but relatively stable countries may now be under-aided. So is aid being spent disproportionately in MICs? As you would expect, countries are diverse, and so too is the amount of aid they each receive. This makes it difficult to summarise the position with summary statistics such as “average.” The comparison is sensitive to the choice of average: are we thinking about the mean or the median person, and the mean or median country?

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Do middle-income countries really get more aid than low-income countries?