Nearly one fifth of humanity lives on less than $1.25 per day, and two-fifths on less than $2 per day, with the frequent hunger, chronic health problems, and everyday indignities that such poverty entails. How can the living standards of the poor be raised? The Center for Development Economics and Policy (CDEP) supports microeconomic research to investigate the sources of poverty and to inform practical interventions to address them. We proceed from the view that we need to understand the world in order to change it: we need to understand how markets work, and so often fail to work, in developing-country settings in order to improve the outcomes that they generate for the poor. The Center supports a range of methodological approaches that share high standards of intellectual rigor and the ultimate goal of reducing poverty.
The Center has two core initiatives, the Human Capital Initiative and the Firms and Innovation Initiative, described in more detail below. The Center hosts a regular seminar and other events, co- sponsors a brown-bag workshop for graduate students, funds promising student research, and provides an intellectual home for students and researchers at Columbia and beyond who are interested in development economics and policy.
The Human Capital Initiative focuses on understanding the productive potential embodied in individuals – their skills, health, and other capabilities. Particularly in developing countries, this is the main asset people own. The initiative focuses on two questions:
More details are on the Human Capital Initiative page.
The Firms and Innovation Initiative is motivated by the view that one of the best anti-poverty programs is a steady job, offering safe working conditions and a wage that supports the basic needs of a household. Such jobs are more likely to be available when an economy’s industrial sector is thriving, when firms are growing and investing in their workforces. Innovation – understood broadly to mean all types of learning: learning how to produce new products, how to reduce costs, how to upgrade quality, how to manage an organization – is a key driver of industrial development. Why are some firms able to innovate and some not? Why are some industries and regions populated by dynamic, innovative firms and some not? What role can public policy play in overcoming market failures and stimulating innovation and industrial development? These are core questions for the initiative.
More details are on the Firms and Innovation Initiative page.
CDEP is a research center of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. Additional support for the CDEP Development Seminar has been received from Columbia Business School and the Department of Economics. Participants in the Center include scholars from across Columbia University, including the Department of Economics and Columbia Business School.