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Organization of Disaster Aid Delivery: Spending Your Donations


  • J. Vernon Henderson
  • Yong Suk Lee


This paper analyzes how different organizational structures between funding and implementing agencies affect the quality of aid delivered and social agendas pursued across neighboring villages in a set disaster context. We model the implied objective functions and trade-offs concerning aid quality, aid quantity, and social agendas of different types of agencies. We analyze three waves of survey data on fishermen and fishing villages in Aceh, Indonesia from 2005-2009, following the tsunami. Different organizational structures result in significantly different qualities of hard aid, differential willingness to share aid delivery with other NGOs in a village, and differential promotion of public good objectives and maintenance of village religious and occupational traditions. This is the first time these aspects have been modeled and quantified in the literature. Some well known international NGOs delivered housing with relatively low rates of reported faults such as leaky roofs and cracked walls; others had relatively high rates. For boats, some had very high rates of boat "failure", boats that sank upon launch, were not seaworthy, or fell apart within a month or two. We also document how a social agenda of particular agencies to promote greater equality can be thwarted and distorted by village leaders, potentially increasing inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Vernon Henderson & Yong Suk Lee, 2011. "Organization of Disaster Aid Delivery: Spending Your Donations," NBER Working Papers 17707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17707
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martens,Bertin & Mummert,Uwe & Murrell,Peter & Seabright,Paul, 2008. "The Institutional Economics of Foreign Aid," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521055390, May.
    2. Azam, Jean-Paul & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 2003. "Contracting for aid," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 25-58, February.
    3. Svensson, Jakob, 2003. "Why conditional aid does not work and what can be done about it?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 381-402, April.
    4. Alesina, Alberto & Dollar, David, 2000. "Who Gives Foreign Aid to Whom and Why?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 33-63, March.
    5. Torsvik, Gaute, 2005. "Foreign economic aid; should donors cooperate?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 503-515, August.
    6. Martin Gaynor & James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor, 2004. "Physician Incentives in Health Maintenance Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 915-931, August.
    7. Thomas Eisensee & David Strömberg, 2007. "News Droughts, News Floods, and U. S. Disaster Relief," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 693-728.
    8. Anup Malani & Tomas Philipson & Guy David, 2003. "Theories of Firm Behavior in the Nonprofit Sector. A Synthesis and Empirical Evaluation," NBER Chapters,in: The Governance of Not-for-Profit Organizations, pages 181-216 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Wane, Waly, 2004. "The quality of foreign aid : country selectivity or donors incentives?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3325, The World Bank.
    10. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1998. "Competition between Private and Public Schools, Vouchers, and Peer-Group Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 33-62, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Emily Skarbek, 2014. "The Chicago Fire of 1871: a bottom-up approach to disaster relief," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 155-180, July.
    2. Prema-chandra Athukorala, 2012. "Disaster, Generosity and Recovery: Indian Ocean Tsunami," Departmental Working Papers 2012-04, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
    3. Prema-chandra Athukorala, 2012. "Indian Ocean Tsunami: Disaster, Generosity and Recovery," Asian Economic Journal, East Asian Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 211-231, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • H84 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Disaster Aid
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • L3 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise

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