November 11, 2013

Columbia SIPA today launched the Center for Development Economics and Policy, a new research center that will work to reduce poverty and raise living standards in developing countries.

The center, to be known as CDEP, will support microeconomic research to investigate the sources of poverty and to inform practical interventions to address them. Professor Eric Verhoogen, the center’s director, said CDEP will proceed from the view that we need to understand the world in order to change it.

“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,” said Verhoogen. “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 will support a range of methodological approaches that share high standards of intellectual rigor and the ultimate goal of reducing poverty.”

Verhoogen, an associate professor of international and public affairs and economics, focuses his research on industrial development – applied microeconomic research on firms in developing countries — an area that overlaps with the fields of development economics, international trade, labor economics, and industrial organization.

The Center’s associate director is Professor Cristian (Kiki) Pop-Eleches, an associate professor of international and public affairs. He is an applied empirical economist whose research area is international health and education.

Dean Merit E. Janow of Columbia SIPA spoke at the launch event: “It’s fitting to formalize SIPA’s commitment to this field with a center that can promote research in critical areas and contribute to training students in development economics. This new center will focus SIPA’s considerable expertise in the area of development economics and provide a research counterpart to the School’s outstanding curriculum programs in Economic and Political Development.”

The Center’s two core initiatives at its launch are the Human Capital Initiative and the Firms and Innovation Initiative.

The Human Capital Initiative focuses on understanding the productive potential embodied in individuals – their skills, health, and other capabilities. The Firms and Innovation Initiative is motivated by the view that one of the best anti-poverty programs is a steady job at a wage sufficient to support 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.

More information about these initiatives and the center’s work in general can be viewed at the CDEP website.

Also participating in the Center’s work are scholars from Columbia Business School, Columbia University’s Department of Economics, and other units at the University. The Business School and Department of Economics are also providing some support for CDEP Development Seminars.