05 January 2012

Kiva: A Gateway Drug?

It's pretty clear that "lending" money on Kiva is not the best way of giving to the poor. You aren't at all really lending to those individuals, but rather donating the interest you could have earned on your deposit to a microlending institution. And microlending institutions can raise their own money from deposits or capital markets, so you would be much better off donating to something more effective, such as buying bednets or deworming pills (see givewell.org's current recommendations, or the Proven Impact Fund).

The potential saving grace for me is Kiva as a development gateway drug. The story and personal connection is powerful. What if Kiva can get people hooked on development, who will then eventually find out more and graduate to doing something with bigger impact? I feel similarly about voluntourism. Would love to see any research on either of these topics.

Does succumbing to Kiva or voluntourism advertising have a causal impact on individual's attitudes and actions towards development, after the selection effect of those individuals being more likely to be interested in development in the first place?

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