Professor Behrman Leads Grand Challenges Canada Grant Project at Penn

April 23, 2013

Jere R. Behrman, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the lead researcher for an 18-month grant to the University from Grand Challenges Canada, for “Team 1000+ Saving Brains: Economic Impacts of Poverty-Related Risk Factors during the First 1000 Days for Cognitive Development and Human Capital.” The project will be centered at the Penn Population Studies Center, where Behrman is a research associate, but is part of a consortium with the University of Bristol (PI: Sonia Bhalotra) and The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP)/Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) (PI: Ramanan Laxminarayan) that involves over 50 investigators in 17 countries.

Funded by the Government of Canada, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The organization works to catalyze scale, sustainability, and impact, focusing on results that save and improve lives globally. Its Saving Brains program focuses on interventions that nurture and protect brain development in the first 1,000 days of life.

As many as 200 million children fail to reach their full potential as a result of exposure to risk factors—malnutrition, infection, poor management of pregnancy, birth complications, and lack of stimulation and nurturing—from conception to 2 years of age. Targeted interventions may help unlock the potential of the next generation of children, and provide their countries with an exit strategy from poverty. The complexity of the issue requires Integrated Innovation, which is at the heart of the Grand Challenges Canada approach.

“Mitigating risks of malnutrition, infectious diseases, inadequate stimulation, and poor maternal health in early life is warranted on intrinsic grounds,” says Behrman. “But it also may be warranted on economic grounds through increasing productivity. This project is estimating economic returns to mitigating such risks in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”

Behrman is a leading international researcher in empirical microeconomics, with an emphasis on developing economies. His research interests include labor economics, human resources (early childhood development, education, health, and nutrition), project evaluation, economic demography, incentive systems, and household behaviors. The goal of much of his research is to improve empirical knowledge of the determinants of and the impacts of human resources given unobserved factors such as innate health and ability, the functioning of various institutions such as households and imperfect markets, and information imperfections.

Behrman has been a principal investigator on over seventy research projects funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Science Foundation, and other governmental and foundation sources.  He has published more than 350 professional articles and thirty-three books.  He is the Economics/Social Science member of the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development (NACHHD) Council, and has been a researcher with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and United Nations Development Program.

Behrman has received honors including being named a Fulbright 40th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow, Econometric Society Fellow, Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and Ford Foundation Fellow. He also received the 2008 biennial Carlos Diaz-Alejandro Prize for outstanding research contributions to Latin America.