Global Poverty Research Lab

Clusters

Women in Ghana, 2013The Global Poverty Research Lab supports research clusters, which can be geographic (e.g., Ghana or Philippines) and sectoral (e.g., financial inclusion, social protection, agriculture, energy).

Not all clusters are identical, but the initial cluster in Ghana broadly illustrates its role. We started by collecting long-term panel data. Alongside these data, we conduct experiments to measure the impact of interventions of interest in economics, political science, psychology, and public health, as well as test theories of interest for policy-relevant academic research.

Research clusters fill these key niches:

  • Collection of long-term data to gather in-depth information about individuals, families and their communities. These data can support the design and implementation of new interventions for testing and are sufficiently flexible to accommodate new graduate student research questions.
  • Economies of scope in research: Currently, the infrastructure for conducting field research is wasteful, with large surveys frequently being rolled out for the purpose of single projects. Many research questions could be answered by starting with a large, representative dataset and then finding implementing parties willing to overlap their operations over the sample frame, rather than the other way around. This is particularly true on theory-led experimentation, in which the researcher is designing a field activity deliberately to test specific theories of development.
  • Multi-faceted interventions, which enable observation of the interactions of different programs. This facilitates research on interactions between different dimensions of behavior. Simultaneous testing to compare program effectiveness is critical for policymakers and donors tasked with making decisions on the allocation of scarce resources.

Who participates?

Student-training sites continuously host students, both undergraduate and graduate, to learn about and contribute to the research process. The partnership will support summer, semester-long, or yearlong internships for Northwestern undergraduates working in one of the clusters. Students in research clusters engage directly in the research process.

There will also be a post-baccalaureate program of research assistants working for one to two years on cluster research, as well as direct engagement of PhD or MBA students in cluster-supported research.