According to the most recent estimates, more than 10 percent of the world’s population live on less than US$1.90 a day, which is below the World Bank’s new international poverty line. This lack of material resources has far-reaching consequences. For example, people in Africa die on average 21 years earlier than in Europe, a third of the population can neither read nor write, and many children suffer from growth disorders. Economic poverty frequently means a life of uncertainty and scarcity, premature death, and limited perspectives. At the same time, recent decades have seen incredible improvements in the quality of life in developing countries. World poverty is at an all-time low, child and maternal death rates have fallen by half since 1990, life expectancy is growing steadily, and literacy rates and education levels are increasing tremendously. At the same time, the number of children and corresponding population growth are falling. All of these developments represent tremendous opportunities worldwide. At the same time, emerging markets in low- and middle-income countries still face big challenges and a large gap remains for them to reach the levels of welfare enjoyed in the rich part of the world.
The goal of the Center is to study policies and interventions that help further promote and grow these positive developments. Researchers at the Zurich Center for Economic Development apply cutting-edge, rigorous economic methods to the study of these topics. They work with policy makers, non-profit organizations and business leaders from around the world to analyze issues ranging from access to microfinance for low-income entrepreneurs, to improving markets for medication by reducing the problem of counterfeit pills, to institutional remedies for preventing corruption and tax evasion or the historical origin of economic growth and development. Many research projects involve understanding the role of the institutional environment and its effect on both the structure of market forces and the behavior of policy makers, citizens, entrepreneurs and consumers. While the research projects at the Center cover a large number of topics, they share a common goal of excellence through the high-quality use of rigorous, advanced economic methods.