Bruce Wydick, a professor of economics and international studies at University of San Francisco, began wondering about child sponsorship a few years ago. He teamed up with two of his graduate students in 2008 to study what kind of impact Compassion International, one of the most well-known child sponsorship organizations, was having in Uganda.
Households in wealthy countries collectively spend $3.2 billion on child sponsorship every year, an amount that currently gets disbursed to 8.36 million children across the world. Wydick and his team found that those sponsored kids typically grow up to have significantly more schooling, better jobs, stabler families, greater leadership abilities, and more wealth—and these advantages almost always “spill over” to their siblings, parents, and community.
The question is, why? Does that extra $30 a month give poor children the push they need to succeed in life? Or is there another cause? Although money helps, Wydick believes that the real change is hope. A psychological study of self-esteem among sponsored children revealed that they typically view themselves as bolder, more secure, more inventive, and happier.
“The patient nurturing of self-worth, self-expectations, dreams, and aspirations may be a critical part of helping children escape poverty,” reports Wydick. “The key to ending poverty resides in the capacity of human beings—and their view of their own capacity—to facilitate positive change.”