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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
CGD is delighted to announce that Nancy Birdsall, our founding president, will deliver the 2016 Richard Sabot Memorial Lecture, entitled ‘New Development Realities in a changing Global Order’. Birdsall will step down at the end of the year and this will be her last public event as CGD president.
Behind the learning crisis in much of the developing world is a huge data gap. Only a few middle income developing countries have the political incentives and technical capacity to develop and sustain national systems that measure what children are learning in school; most school children in the developing world have never taken a test that can be compared year over year or globally benchmarked.
In uncertain political times, the world needs solutions that enjoy broad-based support. Drawing on more than 20 research papers commissioned over two years, Why Forests? Why Now? demonstrates the disproportionate impact tropical forests can have on climate change mitigation, how the livelihoods of millions of poor people around the world depend on the services they provide, and how consensus has been reached on a framework for international cooperation to conserve them.
As the Obama Administration heads into its final months, USAID Administrator Gayle Smith offers a look at how President Obama and his team chose to address the question of US leadership in global development. She will share her perspective on how USAID and its community of partners are positioned to make progress in an increasingly sharp-edged world.
CGD founding president Nancy Birdsall has seen a few US presidents come and go in her long career as a leading development economist, but her message to all occupants of the White House has remained fairly steady: Enact smart policies that help developing countries build stable, prosperous economies of their own—and that will help people at home too. This week she joins the CGD Podcast to talk about some of those ideas, and why development should be a priority for the next US president.
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.
Critics allege that the World Bank is deeply flawed. Yet the world needs a strong World Bank to help manage development and the related global challenges of the 21st century. Do the Bank's shortcomings put its future at risk? If so, can the Bank be rescued? Rescuing the World Bank, a new book that includes a CGD working group report and selected essays edited by CGD president Nancy Birdsall, offers timely perspectives on challenges that are crucial to the Bank’s future success.
In the 2005 WIDER Annual Lecture, “The World is not Flat: Inequality and Injustice in our Global Economy” (PDF), CGD President Nancy Birdsall addresses the challenge that global inequality poses for managing globalization so that it works for the developing world. She first argues that inequality matters to people. Moreover, in developing countries, where markets and politics are far-from-perfect, inequality can be destructive, reducing prospects for growth, poverty reduction, and good government. She then turns to a fundamental problem of globalization--that it is asymmetric, i.e. that it benefits the rich more than the poor, both within and across countries. Birdsall argues that the world is not flat as argued by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Rather, what appears to be a level playing field to people on the surface is actually a field full of craters in which poor people and poor countries are stuck. Birdsall discusses the implications of these craters for shared prosperity, global security, and global social justice. She concludes by suggesting steps for addressing the core problem: We have a global economy but no effective global polity.
In the accompanying article Rising Inequality in the New Global Economy (PDF) Nancy Birdsall argues that globalization is disequalizing, rewarding the already rich while leaving the poor behind, and that we need a global polity to address the asymmetric impacts of globalization.
Download slides from the lecture "Why Inequality Matters in a Globalizing World" (PDF, 580KB) delivered October 26, 2005 at the World Institute for Development Economic Research (WIDER) in Helsinki, Finland
The lecture draws upon the following previously released CGD publications:
Commodity Dependence, Trade and Growth: When Openness Is Not Enough
Economic Policy and Wage Differentials in Latin America
Give Us Your Best and Brightest. The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact on the Developing World
The evidence is compelling that countries benefit from immigration, particularly if immigrants are already well-educated, working-age adults, as is the case with most of the Syrians fleeing war at home. Still, there are real economic, security, and political costs of hosting refugees when, as with the Syrians, the arrivals are sudden and substantial. Given those costs, how should we think about the obligations of potential host countries?
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.
New research shows that inequality in Latin America is falling. In this paper, the authors summarize recent findings, analyze the affect of different regimes, and investigate the relationship between inequality and changes in the size of the middle class in the region. They conclude with some questions about whether and how changes in income distribution and in middle-class economic power will affect the politics of distribution in the future.
Global public goods (GPGs) provide benefits to people in both rich and poor countries. They play a crucial role in safeguarding the social, economic, and political progress of the past century. They are fundamental to managing global risks such as climate change, infectious diseases, and financial crises that can harm developing countries disproportionately; and in exploiting opportunities, such as new vaccines, that can benefit them especially. Yet very little is known about how much governments spend on GPGs that matter for developing countries.