Centers & Programs

The School's 20 research centers and programs provide a framework for organizing our faculty's research interest. Explore our centers and programs below — through their research highlights from the past year.
  • The center's core research project the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) launched its seventh wave of data collection in 2020. The age 22 wave of surveys will capture crucial data on transition to adulthood and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. FFCWS also supports 11 collaborative studies that add biological/genetic data, brain data, sleep data, cardiovascular data, and upcoming contextual factors of the criminal justice system, and experiences of structural racism will be added.
  • The center manages several of its Director Kathryn J. Edin’s significant data collection efforts that capture the thematic focus of families and communities, which share the center’s commitment to examine the impacts of poverty and inequality, race and ethnicity, and other social factors on individual, family, and community well-being. While this research was temporarily halted by the pandemic, in-person fieldwork resumed by Edin in May 2021 in south Texas, the Mississippi Delta, the Pee Dee region and coastal Carolinas, and east Kentucky.
  • The American Voices Project (AVP) is a nationally representative “qualitative census” of how poverty is experienced by individuals living in 200 census block groups across the U.S. Though originally implemented as an in-person study, AVP now collects data virtually, with nearly 3,000 interviews completed. Edin and her colleagues are preparing the data for public release. The study is also releasing a series of crisis monitoring reports focused on interviews conducted during the pandemic.
  • The center supported more than 100 undergraduates enrolled in the Global Health and Health Policy certificate and 17 graduate students pursuing the Health and Health Policy certificate. Overcoming travel restrictions related to COVID-19, the center organized and funded nearly 30 remote global health summer internships with host organizations around the world, and sponsored 20 remote senior thesis research projects.
  • The center is funding groundbreaking faculty research on COVID-19 and other issues. Center-supported research topics include designing evidence-based and ethical maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic, examining the racial dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis, visualizing big tobacco’s targeted market strategies, and investigating the impact of Medicaid disenrollment on child health. The center also introduced a new quarterly online publication highlighting faculty research related to COVID-19.
  • The center continues to actively engage in public outreach. It co-sponsored a virtual conference on the 2020 U.S. presidential election’s impact on health policy, plus events on careers in health policy; fiscal, monetary, and health policy responses to the pandemic; campus sexual assaults; and more. The center affiliates have participated in numerous webinars focused on COVID-19. Further information about center engagement is available here.
  • A team at the center led by Jonathan Mayer teamed up with Mozilla to launch the Mozilla Rally platform, which lets users actively consent and donate their data for research. The first academic study in this research initiative is “Political and COVID-19 News” and is focused on how web users encounter, consume, and share news online about politics and COVID-19.
  • An interdisciplinary team led by Arvind Narayanan and Brandon Stewart along with several of the center’s fellows and students released the Princeton Corpus of Political Emails. Concerned by media reports that political candidates use psychological tricks in their emails to get supporters to donate, they collected and analyzed emails from thousands of candidates running for office, political parties, and other political organizations. They found widespread use of manipulative tactics.
  • A team of the center’s researchers published a paper, “Virtual Classrooms and Real Harms: Remote Learning at U.S. Universities,” which helps universities and students assess and manage the privacy risks created by the rapid transition to online learning during COVID-19. They conducted a privacy and security analysis of 23 popular platforms using a combination of sociological analyses of privacy policies and 129 state laws, alongside a technical assessment of platform software.
  • The center’s Strategic Education Initiative organized a virtual crisis simulation based on a past border crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan. More than 60 Princeton undergraduate and graduate students, along with Air Force Academy and Naval Academy cadets, learned how state leaders can and cannot leverage military, economic, and diplomatic tools to prevent a limited crisis from escalating into a full-scale war.
  • The Strategic Education Initiative invited former congressman Will Hurd to discuss how artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies are redefining national security, and how the U.S. should respond to these challenges with innovative solutions. Emphasizing a need for human talent in government, he encouraged Princeton students with policy and technology backgrounds to consider a career in public service.
  • The annual conference, “Europe and the Future of Security,” brought together 15 experts from academia and think tanks to share their insights on NATO, humanitarian and health crises, and the rise of populism and fascism in Europe. In his keynote address, Amb. Michael McFaul presented his assessment on Russia’s foreign policy under Putin and its implications on the transatlantic alliance.
  • Center researchers published on a range of critical policy topics, including human health and biodiversity risks of wet markets, climate vulnerability related to migration border policies and internal migration patterns, China’s role in influencing energy technology choices in emerging markets, U.S. perceptions of carbon capture and storage, and net-zero emission pathways. Center faculty were featured in the university’s series on “A Half-Century at the Forefront of Environmental Research.”
  • The center organized a number of public and policymaker web events, which included an examination of the November 2020 elections, an assessment of Biden’s first 100 days, and a discussion of Black women in American democracy. The center’s weekly research seminars continued as a virtual series, incorporating innovations such as critique of center faculty work by guest discussants; and on research topics including police-civilian interactions, debt relief, and pandemic politics.
  • The center welcomed its inaugural cohort of Undergraduate Research Fellows, who were involved in the center’s research community as a foundation for possible doctoral study. These selected Princeton seniors participated in research seminars and were paired with center faculty mentors. Several worked as research assistants to center faculty. This initiative reflects the center’s commitment to increasing the pipeline of individuals who identify as members of groups underrepresented in graduate programs.
  • “Accountability and Public Policy: Voters and Governance in the Contemporary United States,” an edited volume forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, grew out of a center conference. Edited by faculty associated with the center’s project on institutions, it features work by center faculty and other leading scholars. The Project on Inequality launched its public webinar series, starting with two key policy challenges: “Protest, Political Violence, and Inequality” and “The Politics of Health Inequalities.”
  • ERS researchers (Jennifer L. Jennings and policy interns) collected and analyzed data on high school enrollment policies in all 96 school districts with 50,000 or more students. More than two in three districts include schools utilizing academic screening to admit students to high schools, with more academic screening occurring in districts with higher levels of income inequality.
  • Christopher A. Neilson and Adam Kapor analyzed data from both Chile and the New Haven School District and found that families applying to schools consistently overestimate their odds of admission, putting them at risk of receiving no school placement.
  • ERS launched Project ADVISE, a dataset and data visualization, under the leadership of postdoctoral fellow Mingyu Chen, which allows policymakers to quantify the impact of international students on domestic students’ higher education access. Overall, the presence of international students increases domestic students’ enrollment in higher education.
  • The project and Carnegie’s Partnership for Countering Influence Operations (PCIO) established several projects around the common mission of measuring the effect of influence operations on real-world outcomes and the impact of countermeasures, including a small grants program of five research projects, along with a joint series of meetings and formal reports. Jacob N. Shapiro serves on the PCIO advisory board, providing expertise on policy outreach and the group’s overall research agenda.
  • In collaboration with West Point’s Modern War Institute, the project launched the Irregular Warfare Initiative (IWI), both founded by SPIA graduate student Kyle Atwell and alumnus Nicholas Lopez. IWI features the weekly Irregular Warfare Podcast, dedicated to bridging the gap between scholars and practitioners on topics related to irregular warfare, including counterterrorism, great power competition, misinformation, and proxy wars. The series has released 30 podcasts so far, which have been downloaded more than 150,000 times.
  • The past year challenged public servants to coordinate a pandemic response across agencies and levels of government, while winning the trust and cooperation of their citizens. The program worked with the United Nations Development Programme to capture lessons, using management case studies from around the globe to leverage insight. Questions included designing effective span of control, winning compliance with rules, delivering targeted social support, fine-tuning restrictions, and managing finance.
  • Protecting elections against disinformation presents stark challenges in democratic political systems. The program worked with SPIA visiting instructor Jeff Fischer and with the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination to profile the steps two countries took to deal successfully with these problems. The public management cases on Sweden and Estonia are accessible on the program’s website and form the cornerstone of future engagement on this subject.
  • For three years, the program has teamed up with the Bernard van Leer Foundation on a project to help scale access to services for young families. The program focuses on steps to boost coordination capacity within municipal governments and to improve sustainability. This series, which includes cities in Brazil, Turkey, Albania, Israel, and Peru, has become part of executive education for city administrators worldwide.
  • Funded through a three-year National Science Foundation grant, the center’s Macrofinance Lab, led by Atif Mian, Ernest Liu, and Karsten Müller, is developing an open-source textbook and data-sharing platform to promote teaching and empirical research about the linkages between finance, debt, and macro-level outcomes. Historical datasets on commercial loans, sectoral debt, and county business patterns will be freely available by September 2021.
  • Expanding its international footprint, the center established a new research and teaching collaboration with the Central Bank of West African States and the African School of Economics. Through a Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies-funded research community on development finance in fragile states, Atif Mian and Princeton colleagues, along with international partners, are exploring new strategies to infuse finance effectively into fragile contexts.
  • Elizabeth L. Paluck co-led a workshop, “The Next Generation of Prejudice Reduction Research,” with previous center-affiliated Hebrew University Professor Roni Porat and the Anna and G. Mason Morfit ’97 Fellowship recipient Chelsey Clark, at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting. The workshop asked what future prejudice reduction interventions should look like to have the highest impact. Paluck, Porat, and Clark discussed their 2020 meta-analysis of prejudice reduction programming impact to guide a roadmap for future work.
  • Many universities are motivated by the notion that diversity enhances student learning, a rationale shared by the U.S. Supreme Court. This view, however, is preferred by white and not Black Americans, and it aligns with better relative outcomes for white Americans, according to a paper by Stacey Sinclair, Nicole Shelton, and Jordan Starck. The findings suggest that schools aiming for inclusion may need to embrace more nuanced reasons for diversity, which may include justice-centered approaches.
  • The National Science Foundation’s RAPID program funds proposals for quick-response research to crises. Alin I. Coman led a team to help inform campaigns to enhance accurate information and decrease misinformation during times of crisis. At the beginning of the pandemic, when new facts were emerging daily, people relied not only on the media but also on social networks. The grant studied the effect of communication on people’s knowledge of COVID-19, and how knowledge disseminates through networks of conversational interactions.
  • The institute began a project called “Climate Change and Self-Determination for Vulnerable States” led by Barbara Buckinx and Matthew Edbrooke. The institute convened an off-the-record workshop series and a public event on the effects of sea level rise on the self-determination of low-lying island states. In spring 2021, the institute published two papers on this topic: a report on the series and a paper on sea level rise and sovereignty.
  • The Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI), led by Shannon Hiller and Nealin Parker, supported local community resilience in the U.S., especially around the contentious 2020 elections. Their work was used by election protection coalitions and state and federal government, including research into the drivers of the January 6 insurrection. BDI provided expert analysis on resilience and political violence in the U.S. in national media outlets, including USA Today, The Atlantic, CNN, and others.
  • All 17 weekly International Relations Colloquium sessions were held virtually through Zoom, which connected not only our current affiliated faculty members, fellows, and undergraduate/graduate students but former fellows and visitors from all around the globe.
  • Despite the international turmoil with COVID-19, the center’s six fellows were successful in securing employment in well-known institutions of higher learning. Colin Chia, Anne Jamison, Nikhil Kalyanpur, Jeheung Ryu, Nicole Wu, and Erin A. York all received notes of “Congratulations! You’re hired!”
  • During September 2020, Duy Duc Trinh accepted the offer as a professional specialist at the Niehaus Center for Globalization & Governance to work with faculty members, visiting fellows, and graduate students associated with the center to provide statistical and technical support for their research projects.
  • The center also assisted the Princeton Township Human Services Commission with designing and conducting a survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social service providers in Princeton and the surrounding area.

The Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) explores the role of law in politics, society, the economy, and culture — providing a forum for rethinking the role of law across the disciplines and for addressing the complex problems of the 21st century.

  • The program developed and released an archive of interdisciplinary scholarly and other works exploring and countering the expression of systems of racism and other forms of exclusion and domination in nuclear arms control, disarmament, nonproliferation, and security studies and policy. It is intended as a resource for more self-reflexive scholarship, teaching, and practice on nuclear weapons and related issues.
  • The program organized and hosted since July 2020 a monthly U.S.-China nuclear arms control seminar together with Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Participants included scholars from leading Chinese and U.S. universities, think tanks, and nongovernmental groups. Topics included forestalling a U.S.-China nuclear arms race, disarmament, missile defense, lessons from transnational nuclear policy engagement, and past U.S.-China crises.
  • The program’s researcher Sébastien Philippe and journalist Tomas Statius wrote “Toxique: Enquête sur les essais nucléaires français en Polynésie,” and with the INTERPRT group and multimedia newsroom Disclose developed the Moruroa Files website. This work overturns the official story of the human and environmental impact of French nuclear weapon testing in the South Pacific and led to a national debate on compensation of nuclear test victims and tabling of new legislation in the French Parliament.

The Research Program in Development Studies (RPDS) conducts research in economics, particularly in microeconomic foundations of development.