According to David Evans at timesandseasons.org writes:
In a recent research paper, economist Lee Crawfurd seeks to answer this question by comparing missionaries who served in a predominantly high-income region – Europe – with those who served in low- and middle-income areas – Africa, Asia, or Latin America. The missionaries assigned to these different regions look very similar on a range of relevant characteristics, such as the number of languages they speak or the number of countries they’d visited.
Here is what he finds:
“We find that returned missionaries who were assigned to a low-income region are more interested in global development, years after their assignment. They are also more likely to continue to volunteer. But we see no difference in support for government aid or immigration, and no difference in personal donations.”
Here’s a bit more detail:
“We find the largest effects on interest in development for those assigned to Africa. We also see a positive effect on attitudes towards official aid for those assigned to Africa (but not Asia or Latin America). Third, those assigned to Africa are more likely to donate to international charities, more likely to volunteer for international causes, more likely to have a career in global development, but less likely to support a political campaign.”
It is interesting that LDS missionaries that serve in Africa develop the greatest empathy toward the poor. This can, in part, be explained by the fact that by UN standards, Africa is the poorest of the continents.
My comment to the above post was:
If missionaries did more service work in developing countries, I’m sure that would further shape their feelings about the poor. And it would help members better understand Prez Monson’s 4th mission of the Church (Care for the Poor and Needy).
The Church needs a much greater commitment to service missions and working with the “poor and needy.”