Dr. Simone Dietrich, who is Assistant Professor of Political Science and also holds an appointment at the Truman School of Public Affairs, studies a broad range of political subjects with a particular interest in international aid allocation and effectiveness. Her field work in international development across the world informs her development of data-oriented inquiries into the political and economic mechanisms of international aid. “Academics don’t explain trees—we explain forests,” she tells us, and in her main projects, she combines many different pieces of data to develop a clear picture of larger trends in the politics of international aid.
There is a scholarly debate in the world of political science over the effectiveness of international aid. In this video, Dr. Dietrich describes how she entered the literature on this subject by examining the tactics that donors use in allocating and delivering aid.
Before earning her PhD Dr. Dietrich spent time as a development practitioner in Bosnia. She tells us that this experience was important in forming her specific interests in political science. In this video Dr. Dietrich explains one of the major initiatives she observed in Bosnia, and tells us how her observations there have developed into a book project on how government ideologies affect foreign aid decision making.
Dr. Dietrich is currently working on a paper that examines aid and democracy consolidation in Africa. The goal of this study is to understand what conditions make foreign aid likely facilitate national transitions to democracy, and what conditions can lead to “democratic deepening.”
Dr. Dietrich is currently working on a paper that examines how international aid impacts the views of recipient countries towards aid suppliers. Dr. Dietrich is currently communicating with USAID and other organizations to develop a field experiment which will “evaluate systematically” how aid recipients’ opinions change after receiving aid.
In this video Dr. Dietrich speaks about her early experiences abroad, and about how they led her to investigate poverty and “uneven development” around the world. These experiences showed Dr. Dietrich that she could contribute to the world by studying development, and by using research to inform groups and individuals with the power to provide international aid on the complexities of development.
Dr. Dietrich’s work is supported by different types of data. Dr. Dietrich tells us how she utilizes qualitative and anecdotal data to illustrate political and economic mechanisms that impact foreign aid allocation and effectiveness, and about how she combines this information with quantitative data to ensure that her analyses and conclusions are supported by facts.
In this video Dr. Dietrich describes a popular lesson she teaches to undergraduate students that traces the global life-cycle of a cotton t-shirt. Through examining this simple item—from production, to initial purchase, and to eventual reuse—Dr. Dietrich is able to show her students how politics interact with economics, how comparative advantage impacts international trade, and how charity can have unintended consequences.