PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University has received a prestigious award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance doctoral training and research on economic, social, and political inequalities in developing countries. The NSF is providing the five-year grant for $3.1 million under its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, which encourages interdisciplinary academic training for U.S. doctoral students. The program, which will be part of a broader initiative that will include partner institutions in the Global South, will be housed at the Watson Institute for International Studies and directed by Barbara Stallings, the William R. Rhodes Research Professor, and Patrick Heller, associate professor of sociology. It is the second IGERT grant awarded at Brown.
Brown’s program, Development and Inequality in the Global South, addresses the growing international concern about the causes and consequences of inequality, and the increasing recognition of the need for a new, more comprehensive approach to understanding and mitigating inequality. Despite tremendous efforts over the last 60 years, basic social and economic inequalities remain pervasive, and there is an emerging consensus in the social sciences and in policy circles that such inequalities can hinder growth, exacerbate health disparities, feed political and social conflict, and undermine governance. It is also now widely recognized that in an increasingly interconnected world the global repercussions of domestic inequalities include the spread of infectious diseases, economic migration, terrorism, cross-national crime, environmental degradation, and political upheaval.
The Program on Development and Inequality, designed for Ph.D. students in anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology, aims to transform doctoral training in the field of development in four ways:
- teaching interdisciplinary theories for tackling the multiple dimensions of inequality;
- training in a range of advanced measurement and analytical techniques;
- providing solid grounding in local context; and
- supporting extensive field work within international, interdisciplinary research teams.
“Brown’s interdisciplinary ethos positions us well to take on these critical issues, break through some of the complexity that has made them so intractable, and train the next generation of scholars to carry the work forward,” said Provost David Kertzer.
While the NSF awards few IGERT grants in the social sciences, “it has clearly responded to our new style of social science research, which draws not only on cutting-edge methodologies but also the kind of international teamwork so familiar in the ‘hard’ sciences,” said Stallings. In substantive terms, she said, the program aims to close an important gap in social science research. In developed economies the interplay of gender, class, race, and income inequalities has been extensively researched, but in developing countries the problem of inequality, although widely recognized, has received surprisingly little attention from researchers.
The program will initially comprise five research initiatives, drawing on Brown’s strengths and aiming for policy relevance:
- markets and social inequality;
- public health and social disparities;
- megacities and inequality;
- democratic governance and participation; and
- global governance and inequality.
The IGERT program will complement topics studied at the Watson Institute. “One of the central themes of our abiding work involves the world’s deepening inequalities,” said Michael Kennedy, the Howard R. Swearer Director of the Watson Institute. “But the other side, which Watson is increasingly engaged in analyzing, is their relationship to different kinds of global ‘flows’ — of power, for instance, or disease, or investment.” The program also builds on such related efforts as the Brown International Advanced Research Institute on Development and Inequality, which drew 52 young scholars from the developing world for a two-week workshop in June, and on the Watson Institute’s interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Development.
Institutional collaborations for the IGERT program have been forged with the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing; the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria; the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning in São Paulo, and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi. The collaborations include arrangements for partners to host students in the program, and for Watson to support visiting faculty and graduate students from partner institutions, complementing the NSF funding for U.S. students.
At Brown, some 30 faculty members are participating from the departments of anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology — and from such interdisciplinary centers as the Population Studies and Training Center (PSTC) and Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S-4), in addition to the Watson Institute. An interdisciplinary executive committee will manage the IGERT program. In addition to Stallings and Heller, committee members include Andrew Foster, professor of economics and department chair; John Logan, professor of sociology and director of S-4; Daniel Jordan Smith, associate professor of anthropology and associate director of PSTC; and Richard Snyder, professor of political science.