Stanford launches research center focused on global poverty and development

The Center on Global Poverty and Development joins students and faculty from across the university and connects them with policymakers and business leaders committed to fighting poverty.

Global poverty is one of the most pressing issues of our time. While great progress has been made to combat it in recent decades, nearly 800 million people still live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, and more than 2 billion people are on the cusp of poverty. Thanks to technological advances and a rising sense of urgency, researchers, policymakers and business leaders now have an even greater ability to help end global poverty.

To focus more squarely than ever before on this challenge, Stanford University is creating the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development. Launched today, the center joins students and faculty from across the university and connects them with policymakers and business leaders committed to fighting poverty.

The center’s mission is threefold: to support path-breaking research on global poverty and development within Stanford and beyond; to inspire students through hands-on research opportunities, fellowships and events; and to inform policies and practices through strategic partnerships with global policymakers and thought leaders as well as on-campus events that foster new ideas and university-wide collaborations.

The center - which has more than 100 affiliated faculty from across the university - is a joint venture between the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research ( SIEPR ) and the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, known as Stanford Seed. It continues a number of programs and initiatives formerly housed under Stanford Seed and SIEPR’s Stanford Center for International Development (SCID).

"Global poverty is extremely complex. It demands multidisciplinary collaboration and meaningful engagement with decision makers. Stanford has a culture and proven track record of interdisciplinary research and real-world impact, and it is now poised to lead in work confronting global poverty and promoting development," says Grant Miller , the center’s director and an associate professor of medicine.

The center will expand the scope and pace of research already underway by faculty and students from across the university - experts in economics, political science, sociology, engineering and medicine, among other fields - who are generating breakthrough insights into the roots of poverty and creating solutions that work. High-resolution satellite imagery is allowing Stanford researchers to identify and study hidden pockets of poverty around the world in a way not previously possible. A new effort to map and survey employers and their employees in China - the largest research effort of its type in the world - is shedding light on key labor issues confronting the "factory of the world."

"When insights from studies like these reach people who are shaping policy and practice in the developing world, it can lead to new strategies for alleviating poverty - and it can also stimulate new research with even greater impact," says Mark Duggan , Stanford’s Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics, and the Trione Director of SIEPR. "Leaders on the front lines of the private sector and government need rigorous data-driven research from which to draw, to help them make decisions that will lead to more innovation and to better policies."

The center is kicking off several new programs developed and led by multidisciplinary teams of faculty, including:

  • The Data for Development Initiative . New data from sources like satellite imagery and cell phone records - together with powerful methods for analyzing them - are radically reshaping development research and strategies for building sustainable economies around the world. Through research collaboration, student training and strategic partnerships, this initiative leverages new data and tools for examining a broad range of questions surrounding poverty, agriculture, infrastructure, migration and other critical issues.
  • The Firms and Global Productivity Initiative . Despite the important role that businesses play in economic growth and in moving people out of poverty, a lack of high-quality, in-depth data limits what we know about the private sector. This initiative is filling this void through pioneering projects that collect data on key issues, including productivity, job creation and sources of innovation, that are affecting businesses in China, India and other countries.
  • The student experience. Through opportunities on and off campus, the center is committed to immersing students in issues surrounding global poverty and development - and to inspiring and supporting them as they seek answers and solutions. Through fellowships and mentored research opportunities, students can conduct research on the ground in middleand low-income countries.

"Ending the cycle of global poverty requires the kind of advances in fundamental knowledge that a research university can generate, and that’s what this center is going to provide," said Jesper Sorensen , the Robert A. and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business and faculty director of Stanford Seed. "The fact that we’re bringing together not only faculty and students from all parts of the university but collaborating with development experts worldwide is truly inspiring."

To celebrate the launch, an event for center supporters and the campus community is set for Nov. 13 and will feature a keynote address by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of the board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, former finance minister of Nigeria and former managing director of the World Bank Group.