Pascaline Dupas

Fill in the Blanks with Pascaline Dupas

Sep 22 2023
By David Pavlak
Source Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

At the intersection of global economics and household poverty analysis is Pascaline Dupas, a professor of economics and public affairs and co-director of the Research Program in Development Economics. Dupas officially joined Princeton in July after 12 years at Stanford University. Get to know one of the newest members of the SPIA community as she clues us in about her research interests and where you’ll most likely find her on a Saturday night.

My research explores … policies and programs that can help reduce global poverty. I partner with governments, , and civil society organizations to tackle pressing problems facing the very poor. We know that raising GPD per capita is neither easy nor a panacea since more and more of the very poor live in middle-income countries. Instead, what I focus on are microeconomic issues — such as access to quality education, quality healthcare, and financial inclusion. I work with partners to understand how to break a given problem into tractable pieces and we then try out potential solutions for each piece. I also do a lot of fieldwork, data collection, and running randomized controlled trials. I have worked in Kenya for over 20 years, in Ghana for over 15 years, and more recently in Malawi, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia. I also started working in India five or so years ago.

SPIA is interesting to me … for two reasons. First, I can’t wait to teach the MPA and MPP students. My research is very policy-oriented, but we all know that research alone is not enough to lead to impact — impact comes when decision-makers use scientific evidence in their program and policymaking. SPIA has the best masters’ programs in the world for decision-makers, and it will be an honor and opportunity to help the students learn how to harness the power of data and evidence in their own endeavors to make the world a better place.

Second, I am a huge consumer of the research produced by other disciplines — from political science to psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and many others. I am tremendously excited to have the opportunity to learn from the SPIA community. The reality of academia is that it’s very easy to get so busy within one’s little rabbit hole that walking across campus to meet folks from another discipline quickly becomes impossible. I was impressed and pleased at how well attended the first SPIA faculty forum was last week. I loved it and can’t wait for the next one.

At SPIA, I hope to … get many students excited to join the fight against global poverty and to help those already excited about it acquire the skills they need to be as impactful as possible. I am also working on expanding training and mentoring opportunities for aspiring scholars from the Global South.

If I weren’t in academia, I would be … a medical doctor working with Doctors Without Borders. I come from a family of medical doctors, so that is what I wanted to be growing up. My parents, both MDs at public hospitals in France, and Baby Boomers, discouraged me from going to medical school, saying, “There are too many doctors!” I guess they did not quite anticipate the aging of their own generation! I managed to stay in close range, though, since a lot of my research is focused on health issues in low- and middle-income countries.

The person most influential in my life has been … my college mentor, Daniel Cohen. He sadly passed away suddenly in August after a short battle with a rare blood disease. I am on my way to Paris for a conference honoring his legacy. He is the person who made me want to become a social scientist, and he embodied the concept of the scholar at the service of society. What’s more, he was a very broad scholar, always learning from and conversing with other social scientists. I have never met another academic as optimistic as he was about the role that academics can play in the world.

On a Saturday night in Princeton, you’ll most likely find me at … the outdoor patio of the Ivy Inn!

My secret talent is … that I have no secret talent. Alas, I am a terrible cook, I can’t draw to save my life, and I can’t sing or play an instrument. But I have reasons to believe that once I find time to start triathlon training, I’ll be quite good at it (for my age category!).