Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stanford Report, January 23, 2009 New center tackles poverty, inequality

Stanford and Harvard are launching a project to develop and evaluate a national policy on poverty and inequality in America.

The Collaboration for Poverty Research will tap the intellectual resources of both institutions to focus attention and garner public support for new measures to attack and solve one of the most significant public problems of our time.

The program links the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality with Harvard Kennedy School's Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. The partnership will offer a national stage for renewed awareness and action in hopes of improving the lives of the 37 million Americans living below the poverty line.

The Elfenworks Foundation is funding the project with $1.5 million given to Stanford and $2.4 million to Harvard.

"This initiative will help us fight a new smart war on poverty backed by the very best science," said David Grusky, director of the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. "Good intentions alone are not enough, but when good intentions are combined with the best science then great things can happen."

The collaboration will support four interrelated programs: national task forces to investigate pressing problems pertaining to American poverty and social inequality; a social policy laboratory that promotes science-based evaluations and policy innovations that expand economic opportunity and social mobility; a program of graduate and undergraduate internships that support the national task forces and the social policy laboratory while also training new policymakers; and a series of executive roundtables to foster exchanges between researchers, policymakers and opinion leaders.

"The tentacles of poverty and inequality reach far and deep throughout our society—from our most crowded cities to our farthest rural corners," said Bruce Western, director of Harvard's Program in Inequality and Social Policy. "The challenge for policymakers is to recognize the complexity of the challenge, and to confront it in effective new ways. The collaboration is intended to help bridge the gap between theory and practice, between ideas and impact. We hope to make a significant difference in this effort."

The topics expected to be addressed by the work of the collaboration include urban violence, housing and the poor, immigration and the labor market, economic insecurity, education and the poor, democratizing political participation, unplanned pregnancies, and healthcare reform. Additional topics may also be developed over time.

"America is in the midst of some of the most difficult financial, economic and market conditions we have seen since the 1930s," said Lauren Speeth, chief executive officer of the Elfenworks Foundation. "In light of the times, I feel a profound sense of gratitude that Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford University would join together to address our country's most urgent needs with this initiative."


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