Campus & Community

HKS, Stanford collaborate on poverty project

3 min read

A new collaborative effort bringing together faculty and scholars from Harvard and Stanford universities is being launched to evaluate — and develop — national policy on poverty and inequality in America. The Collaboration for Poverty Research (CPR) will tap the vast intellectual resources of both institutions, leveraging their combined power to focus attention and garner public support for new measures to attack and solve one of the most significant public problems of our time.

CPR will link Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy (PISP) with the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality (CSPI). The partnership will offer a national stage for renewed awareness and action in hopes of improving the lives of the 37 million people living below the poverty line in the United States. Funding for the collaboration is provided in part by The Elfenworks Foundation, which offers resources for individuals and organizations dedicating to fighting domestic poverty.

“The tentacles of poverty and inequality reach far and deep throughout our society — from our most crowded cities to our farthest rural corners. The challenge for policymakers is to recognize the complexity of the challenge and to confront it in effective new ways,” said HKS Professor of Sociology Bruce Western, director of PISP, and CPR co-director. “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.”

“This initiative will help us fight a new smart war on poverty backed by the very best science,” remarked David Grusky, director of Stanford’s CSPI. “Good intentions alone are not enough, but when good intentions are combined with the best science, then great things can happen.”

“America is in the midst of some of the most difficult financial, economic, and market conditions we have seen since the 1930s,” says Elfenworks CEO Lauren Speeth. “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.”

CPR 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.

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