An independent study has found that child sponsorship makes a "statistically significant" impact on the lives of participating children.
The study was led on behalf of Compassion International by Dr Bruce Wydick, Professor of Economics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco.
Although around $3.2bn is spent each year on child sponsorship this is the first major independent research into the difference it makes to the roughly nine million children taking part.
"We were surprised to see that no one had ever done research to determine if international child sponsorship really works, so we conducted a study of Compassion International's programme in six countries we believed to be representative of its work around the globe," Dr Wydick explained.
"What we found was that Compassion's child-centred development approach to sponsorship has many strong, positive impacts on the adult life outcomes of these formerly sponsored children."
The study looked at over 1,850 people across six countries who had been sponsored as children through Compassion between 1980 and 1992.
Wydick's team made a number of key findings:
- Former Compassion sponsored children stay in school 1 to 1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers. (In Uganda, the numbers are 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 sponsored children were 27-40% more likely to finish secondary education than those who were not enrolled in the child sponsorship programme.
- Former Compassion sponsored children were 50-80% more likely to complete a university education than non-sponsored children.
- As adults, former Compassion sponsored children were 14-18% more likely to have salaried employment than their non-sponsored peers.
- As adults, former Compassion sponsored children were roughly 35% more likely to secure white-collar employment than their non-sponsored peers.
- Former Compassion sponsored children were 30-75% more likely to become community leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers.
- Former Compassion sponsored children were 40-70% more likely to become church leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers.
Compassion UK chief executive, Ian Hamilton said: "We have known for years that our projects are transforming lives and communities so it is wonderful to have independent research to support that.
"What I will say is that our projects today are even better than ever. The research was, understandably, conducted with participants of our projects in the 80s and 90s.
"If we conduct the same research in another 30 years, I am confident the extent of impact will be even greater."