More than 9 million children around the world are enrolled in some sort of child sponsorship program. And more than $3.2 billion go into these sponsorship programs every year. Which must mean that child sponsorship works, right?
That’s the exact question Dr. Bruce Wydick, professor for the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, asked … and he was surprised to learn that almost no in-depth research into international child sponsorship had been conducted:
“Given the number of individuals involved in child sponsorship relationships and the billions of dollars committed to them, it is surprising that almost no research exists that evaluates the impact of these programs.”
But that has changed now. The results of Dr. Wydick’s extensive research will be published in the April 2013 issue of the prestigious Journal of Political Economy, a leading economics journal. And the results are quite exciting.
To wrap it all up in a pretty bow, the results of the research show:
“. . . that children who participated in Compassion’s holistic child development through sponsorship program stayed in school longer, were more likely to have salaried or white-collar employment and were more likely to be leaders in their communities and churches than their peers who did not participate in the program.”
What Was the Study?
In 2008, Dr. Wydick, along with two colleagues, set out to explore the effectiveness of international child sponsorship. They envisioned a comparative look at several child sponsorship organizations, but we were the only organization that agreed to participate.
We did so because our mission statement is “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.”
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Not temporarily relieving children from poverty.
And not helping children survive inside of poverty.
We had to raise our hand.
Because we were the only organization to accept the invitation, Wydick’s research team changed its original vision of comparing sponsorship programs. They decided to focus on researching adult life outcomes of former participants in our program against the outcomes of those who were not part of our program.
Is there a difference between adults who grew up in poverty and went through our program and adults who did not?
How Was the Study Conducted?
The research focused on six nations where we provided child sponsorship between 1980 and 1992.
That time period was chosen because children enrolled in our sponsorship program during that time frame would be adults when the research was conducted between 2008 and 2010.
The research studied the adult life outcomes of 10,144 individuals, including:
- 1,860 former Compassion beneficiaries
- 3,704 unsponsored siblings
- 2,136 families in the same communities but who had no family members enrolled in Compassion’s program
- 2,444 individuals from similar nearby villages that didn’t offer Compassion programs
The research found that former Compassion beneficiaries stayed in school longer than their non-sponsored peers.
- Former Compassion beneficiaries stayed in school 1 to 1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers. (In Uganda, the numbers were much higher — 2.4 years.) An extra year of schooling could have long-lasting impact on a child’s future employment possibilities as an adult.
- Former Compassion beneficiaries were 27 to 40 percent more likely to finish secondary education than those who were not enrolled in the Child Sponsorship Program.
- Former Compassion beneficiaries were 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education than non-sponsored children.
When asked which component of Compassion’s program was most beneficial, the most common answer given by former Compassion beneficiaries was “educational support” (38.5 percent). The second-most common response related to “spiritual or character development” (29.4 percent).
Dr. Wydick refers to Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program as “the great equalizer” in that it levels the playing field for children seeking an education in the developing world. In countries where there is a greater need or where children face greater obstacles to achieving an education, Compassion tends to have a greater impact.
The research found that, as adults, former Compassion beneficiaries were more likely to attain salaried/white-collar jobs than their non-sponsored peers.
- As adults, former Compassion beneficiaries were 14 to 18 percent more likely to attain salaried employment than their non-sponsored peers.
- As adults, former Compassion beneficiaries were roughly 35 percent more likely to secure white-collar employment than their non-sponsored peers.
The research found that, as adults, former Compassion beneficiaries were more likely to become leaders in their communities and churches.
- As adults, former Compassion beneficiaries were 30 to 75 percent more likely to become community leaders than their non-sponsored peers.
- As adults, former Compassion beneficiaries children were 40 to 70 percent more likely to become church leaders than their non-sponsored peers.
A Note on Comparisons
To be clear, this study does not present a comparison of our program to other sponsorship organizations. Nor does it make any claims that our program is better than any other child sponsorship offering.
In fact, the researchers say it would be difficult to compare our Child Sponsorship Program to other organizations.
What Does This Mean for You?
No matter who you are — sponsor, donor, non-sponsor, volunteer — you now have independent, empirical research validating Compassion’s Christian, holistic, child-focused, one-to-one Child Sponsorship Program.
You can now confidently say, “It Works!”