On March 1, I’ll join the Center for Global Development as a Senior Fellow.
Here’s the backstory — or, to be fair, the way backstory: Back in 2000, I was finishing up my first year as a PhD student in economics and my advisor invited me to spend the summer assisting him with research in rural Kenya. As I talked with people there, it became clear that children who had lost their parents — many of them to HIV-related causes — were a major concern. So I centered my dissertation around an issue that I believed was important to people’s lives, examining the schooling impacts of losing a parent (co-written with Ted Miguel) and the spillovers of fostering orphans on non-orphan children.
At the end of my PhD, when I went on the job market, I was supposed to be able to talk about my research agenda — all the exciting research I intended to do. But to be honest, I didn’t have much of an agenda. Beyond orphanhood, I didn’t have a sense of questions that were important to people in extremely low income environments. So I went to a research thinktank and mostly worked on other people’s projects for a couple of years. Then I came to the World Bank. Here, I’ve had uncountable opportunities to listen to people in low- and middle-income countries tell me the questions that they want answers to. Some of the questions are specific: Will our pilot cash transfer program improve lives? Can we improve the efficiency of management in our rural health clinics? Others are broad: What works to improve learning outcomes in schools? How can we help teachers to be their best?
Over the last 11+ years and 5 different jobs at the World Bank, I’ve accumulated more policy relevant questions than I could research in a lifetime. Of course, at most jobs at the World Bank, you do lots of different things: I’ve managed loans, organized conferences, and helped to develop strategies. I’ve also done research and experimented with different ways of getting research used.
For a little while, I’ve wanted to dedicate a higher proportion of my time seeking answers to that lifetime of questions. I’ve long admired the Center for Global Development and its team of experts, consistently injecting rigorous evidence into important development policy debates. Way back in 2005, I positively reviewed its first edition of Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health. (There’s a new edition out now!) Much later, I worked with a CGD expert to try and understand the potential economic impacts of the 2014 Ebola epidemic. When working on the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018: LEARNING to Realize Education’s Promise, my co-authors and I cited the work of CGD scholars extensively: The Center for Global Development is referenced explicitly 18 times in the bibliography of the report!
So I’m delighted to be joining that team, where I hope to do a lot of research and writing on questions that matter. I look forward to discussing it all along the way with you, dear readers.