Bonnie Kristian

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. James Josefson

Degree Award Date

Fall 2008


Efficiency, Effectiveness, Private Charity, Public Charity, Case Studies


Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Service Learning | Sociology


The academic literature on the subject of private charity and comparable public programs is generally in agreement: private organizations are more efficient and/or effective in their work for one or more of a variety of reasons. However, little in-depth data is presented to support these claims, and research on private groups is usually uncoupled with data on their government counterparts. Here I examine four such theories, the first of which places charities in a marketplace of sorts, competing for donations. The latter three theories assign private aid providers a comparative advantage either for their lack of political associations, minimal bureaucracy, or flexibility and innovation. I make four case studies of relief aid agencies, three private and one public, and examine a set of intermediate variables to find evidence for or against these theories. The first two emerge comparatively well supported, but I find less evidence for the latter two.