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Barrett, Deborah & Tsui, Amy Ong (1999). Policy as Symbolic Statement: International Response to National Population Policies. Social Forces, 78(1), 213-233.


Traditional studies of state policies tend to focus on the achievement of the policies' stated ends. But policies, as systems of meaning and expressions of legitimate statehood, signal various meanings to national and international audiences. In this article, we demonstrate the importance of the symbolic and international realms by investigating the impact of population policies on patterns of financial assistance from international donor organizations. We find that developing countries with policies are more likely to (1) receive population assistance, and (2) receive greater amounts of funding than are countries without policies. These results suggest that studies of policy outcomes should not only evaluate local, intended consequences, but how national policies as international symbols may foster other types of consequences.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Forces


Barrett, Deborah
Tsui, Amy Ong