About the Collaboration for Poverty Research

The Collaboration for Poverty Research (CPR) brings together faculty and scholars from Harvard and Stanford Universities to develop and evaluate national policy on poverty and inequality in America. CPR taps the vast intellectual resources of both institutions, leveraging their combined convening 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.

How did this creative, forward thinking initiative, linking former rivals, come about? At the invitation of The Elfenworks Foundation, professors from Harvard University and Stanford University met in Burlingame, California, in 2008 to discuss the possibility of establishing a collaborative research initiative. They had the unprecedented support of both universities. At Stanford University, the initiative was widely supported by key leaders, including Karen Cook, the Director of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, and Richard Saller, the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. At Harvard University, support came from David Ellwood, Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, from the Board of Trustees, and from many others. The initiative, once established, attracted renowned scholars from institutions throughout the country.

At that time, "only" 37 million Americans were living below the poverty line (by the time this site was launched, the number had risen to 44 million). This new partnership would offer a national stage for renewed awareness and action, in hopes of improving lives. The paragraphs below are taken from the January 23, 2009 press release:

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.

"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."