Can Redistribution Change Policy Views? Aid and Attitudes toward Refugees in Uganda

Travis Baseler
Robert Hakiza
Helidah Ogude-Chambert
Olivia Woldemikael
May 04, 2023

Many public policies create (perceived) winners and losers, but there is little evidence on whether redistribution can support new political economy equilibria that raise aggregate welfare. We conduct a randomized controlled trial in Kampala, Uganda studying foreign aid programs for Ugandans which are explicitly connected to the refugee presence. Cash grants labeled as part of the refugee aid response substantially increase support for admitting more refugees and allowing them to work and integrate. Sharing information about public goods funded by the refugee response has smaller, though still significant, effects. Impacts persist for at least two years and are associated with changing beliefs about the economic effects of refugees. We find minimal impacts of intergroup contact, implemented as business mentorship by an experienced refugee. Overall, our results suggest that economic interventions can meaningfully shape policy views when the connection between the policy and the assistance is salient.

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