With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
Development economics, globalism and inequality, the aid system, international financial institutions, education, Latin America, climate financing
Nancy Birdsall is president emeritus and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a policy-oriented research institution that opened its doors in Washington, DC in October 2001. Prior to launching the center, Birdsall served for three years as senior associate and director of the Economic Reform Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her work at Carnegie focused on issues of globalization and inequality, as well as on the reform of the international financial institutions.
From 1993 to 1998, Birdsall was executive vice-president of the Inter-American Development Bank, the largest of the regional development banks, where she oversaw a $30 billion public and private loan portfolio. Before joining the Inter-American Development Bank, she spent 14 years in research, policy, and management positions at the World Bank, most recently as director of the Policy Research Department.
Birdsall has been researching and writing on economic development issues for more than 25 years. Her most recent work focuses on the relationship between income distribution and economic growth and the role of regional public goods in development.
Birdsall is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Food Policy Research Council (IFPRI), of the African Population and Health Research Center, and of Mathematica. She has chaired the board of the International Center for Research on Women and has served on the boards of the Social Science Research Council, Overseas Development Council, and Accion. She has also served on committees and working groups of the National Academy of Sciences.
Birdsall holds a PhD in economics from Yale University and an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Putting Education to Work in Egypt, by Nancy Birdsall and Lesley O'Connell. Prepared for Conference, Growth Beyond Stabilization: Prospects for Egypt, sponsored by The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies in collaboration with the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector, University of Maryland; the Harvard Institute for International Development, and the US Agency for International Development, February 3-4, 1999, Cairo, Egypt. March 1999.
"Intergenerational Mobility in Latin America: Deeper Markets and Better Schools Make a Difference," with Jere R. Behrman and Miguel Szekely, in New Markets, New Opportunities? Economic and Social Mobility in a Changing World (1999)
"The U.S. and the Social Challenge in Latin America: The New Agenda Needs New Instruments," with Nora Lustig and Lesley O'Connell, in The Search for Common Ground: U.S. National Interests and the Western Hemisphere in a New Century (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999)
"Deep Integration and Trade Agreements: Good for Developing Countries?" with Robert Z. Lawrence in Global Public Goods: International Cooperation in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 1999)
"No Tradeoff: Efficient Growth Via More Equal Human Capital Accumulation in Latin America," in Beyond Trade-Offs: Market Reforms and Equitable Growth in Latin America (1998)
"That Silly Inequality Debate," in Foreign Policy, May/June 2002
"Education in Latin America: Demand and Distribution are Factors that Matter," with Juan Luis Londoño and Lesley O'Connell in CEPAL Review 66, December 1998
"Life is Unfair: Inequality in the World," in Foreign Policy, Summer 1998
"Public Spending on Higher Education in Developing Countries: Too Much or Too Little?" in Economics of Education Review, 1996
We have long advocated for more widespread use of median income or median consumption to compare individuals’ material well-being between countries and its development over time, and we are happy to report that the World Bank team that manages the (impressive) PovcalNet database has come through: as of October 1, the median monthly per capita income or consumption for each country is now part of the standard indicators displayed for any country query on PovcalNet.
The multilateral development banking (MDB) system is regarded as having been remarkably successful—but is the model still fit for purpose? CGD president Nancy Birdsall and senior fellow Scott Morris delve into a new CGD report's recommendations on how to make MDBs more effective.
Finance and development ministers gathered in Washington this weekend at the World Bank’s annual meetings have an ambitious agenda of topics to discuss. But the truth is, it is not nearly ambitious enough. A new CGD report by a high level commission of development and finance experts explains why and what should happen.
The Birdsall House Conference Series on Women seeks to identify and bring attention to leading research and scholarly findings on women’s empowerment in the fields of development economics, behavioral economics, and political economy.
Last week the World Bank Board closed the three-week window, announced in late August, for member countries to nominate candidates for the presidency of the World Bank. Jim Kim, the US nominee and incumbent since his election in 2012, was formally nominated by the United States at 12:01 a.m. at the opening bell, so to speak. He is the sole candidate in what appears to have been a kind of insider coup by the United States (called a “charade” in a World Bank Staff Association letter to its members) of the procedures agreed by World Bank members in 2011.
Globalization is under attack in the West. The debate among pundits is no longer about whether globalization is to blame or not. It is about why globalization is now the bugaboo it has become. A common thread are changes, for the worse, in the economic and social standing of the Western middle class.
Why does poverty persist across so much of the world, despite billions of dollars in international aid and the efforts of development professionals? William Easterly’s answer, as proposed in his new book, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, is a lack of respect for liberty—not just on the part of governments of impoverished countries but also, more provocatively, on the part of the development experts. Owen Barder, director of CGD in Europe and a noted development expert himself, disagrees. A vote of the audience will determine who wins the debate, which will also be streamed live.
Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies, India has hit a turbulent patch in recent years with declining growth and increasing macro-economic instability. India's emphasis on skill-intensive manufacturing and services over unskilled manufacturing has left a large portion of the population under-employed. At the same time, India’s precocious democracy has uniquely shaped both its economic and institutional development.
In this lecture, Arvind Subramanian will reflect on India's unusual pattern of economic and political development, and look to its prospects for the future. How can India’s institutions develop to both create investment opportunities and provide essential services to its citizens? Can India overcome its reliance on skills-based industries and become a manufacturing powerhouse? With India’s elections wrapping up on May 16 and a new government assuming office, a major challenge will be to rehabilitate India's development model or search for an alternative.
In this speech delivered to
the UN General Assembly, Nancy Birdsall argues that in the absence of an activist global political
entity to address these issues, global citizens should press their
own governments to adopt policies that address these problems, domestically and internationally.
The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.
In a new CGD report, U.S. and Pakistani development experts urge a substantial revamp of the U.S. approach to Pakistan, saying that U.S. efforts to build prosperity in the nuclear-armed nation with a fledgling democratic government, burgeoning youth population, and shadowy intelligence services are not yet on course.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 5, 2014, the Center for Global Development will honor the Open Government Partnership with the 2014 Commitment to Development "Ideas in Action" Award.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency and accountability, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Since its inception in 2011, OGP has grown from eight founding governments to 65 countries, representing one-third of the world’s population, and secured more than 2,000 commitments from participating governments to be more open and accountable to their citizens. Many of those commitments have already brought real changes for citizens in both developing and developed countries.
CGD's Commitment to Development Award, given annually since 2003, honors an individual or organization for making a significant contribution to changing attitudes and policies of the rich and powerful toward the developing world. Previous recipients include Unilever chief executive officer Paul Polman (2013), US Senator Richard Lugar (2012), the ONE Campaign (2008), and Gordon Brown (2005). More information about the Award and a full list of previous winners is available here.