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.
Church collections, philanthropists and company-giving amounted to $22bn a year, according to a study by the Hudson Institute think-tank, easily more than the $16.3bn in overseas development sent by the US government. American churches, synagogues and mosques alone gave $7.5bn in 2003 - a figure which exceeds the government totals for France ($7.2bn) and Britain ($6.3bn) - according to numbers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which deal a blow to those who claim moral superiority over the US on aid.
Carole Adelman, the author of the Hudson Institute report, has discovered that a further $6.2bn a year is donated by independent US organisations, $2.7bn by US companies and $2.3bn by US universities and colleges, mainly through scholarships, to reach an overall private US donations total of $22bn.
In stark contrast, in separate exploratory work for the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Adelman found that the maximum EU figure was a mere $1.5bn in private sector donations, 14.6 times less than the comparable US figure.
In addition, the US economy's large immigrant population, which makes up 12% of its population, almost twice that of Britain, allows $40.1bn of wages earned by developing world workers to be sent to their home countries in the form of remittances.
Adelman said this transforms the picture on aid to the developing world, showing how America's stronger economic growth and lower taxation is giving indirect aid to the Third World which dwarfs the government's donations. The benchmark for state aid is the United Nations goal of devoting 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) in government aid to developing countries. Ireland has pledged to do so by 2007; Belgium and Finland by 2010; France by 2012 and the UK by 2013.
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%.
But this model ignores the private donations made possible by the lower tax burden in the US of 31.8%, against the eurozone's 45.6%. Figures for philanthropic donations have been collected for the first time by the Hudson Institute.
The 2003 figure counted money pledged by the Clinton administration, Adelman said. Since then President Bush has pledged to take aid to Africa from $1.2bn-a-year to $8.7bn a year by 2010.
Adelman added: "We're already world number one in absolute aid assistance. By the time the additional pledges are delivered, we will probably be number one in relative terms in about two years' time."