Evidence-based Research Designed for Action

Our research informs stakeholders about the causes and consequences of violent crime in developing countries and examines solutions to address the problem.

    About Our Research
  • About Our Research
  • Criminal Violence
  • Governance
  • Education

About Our Research

In developing countries where basic rule of law institutions and law enforcement capacity are often lacking, the challenges of endemic criminal violence and absence of opportunity for young people are an uphill battle. According to estimates by the Mexico Citizens Council for Public Security, Latin America is home to 43 of the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world. Between 73,000 and 90,000 homicides annually are caused by firearms, three times higher than the world average. From casual affiliation with gangs to full-time participation in international drug cartels, young men are the biggest target — and the chief victims — of this conflict.

The Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab carries out research designed to inform policymakers, government agencies, law enforcement institutions and community organizations about the underlying causes of violent crime and its devastating consequences. Our work uses both observational, quasi-experimental and experimental research methods to gain critical insights into the links between criminal violence, law enforcement policies and practices, and the well-being of citizens. We also leverage those insights to evaluate the impact of programs and to propose new approaches aimed at reducing violence, improving policing, mitigating human rights abuses, strengthening local governance, and providing educational and employment opportunities for at-risk youth.

Criminal Violence

Violence linked to gang wars, organized crime and narcotrafficking has become endemic in many developing world countries as criminals operate with greater impunity — and often in league with government and law enforcement institutions. The failure of governments to ensure security in poor communities leads to a law and order vacuum where criminal governance takes root, trapping victims in a perpetual cycle of violence, fear and predation.  Criminal violence thrives where law enforcement is corrupt, dysfunctional or absent, crippling economic and social development and destroying trust in political institutions.

Our research agenda examines the devastating effects of criminal violence in the developing world, with a focus on: how criminal violence spreads and disperses geographically; impacts on economic performance, human capital accumulation, health outcomes, and persistence of poverty; design of policy interventions to address dysfunctional public institutions; and opportunities to build police and citizen partnerships to improve security.

For further reading on the topic of criminal violence, explore the links below.


There is broad consensus about the importance of good governance for poverty alleviation, yet little is known about how good governance is achieved. The design and implementation of government programs for improving the well-being of the poor have proven elusive for policymakers worldwide, as misaligned political incentives and weak institutions give rise to corruption, abuse of power and rent-seeking. Our research investigates ways to improve governance and ensure accountability in the delivery of public services in the developing world.

Our policy-oriented research examines political institutions and governance practices that affect poverty alleviation and the provision of public services. In partnership with government agencies and civil society organizations, we employ the tools of scientific inquiry to expand our knowledge about the institutional, behavioral, cultural, and contextual factors that can lead to better governance in the developing world. We then work to design and evaluate interventions aimed at improving government accountability and the rule of law.

For further reading on the topic of governance, explore the links below.


Poverty, lack of economic growth, youth unemployment and lack of education are some of the factors scholars have argured predict violence. These factors fuel violence and crime because they decrease the financial benefits potential perpetrators can expect from available legal opportunities. In countries disproportionately affected by criminal violence, there is an urgency to advance educational, cultural, and employment programs to benefit young people. 

Vulnerable youth commonly experience stagnating educational attainment, high unemployment, limited access to high-quality jobs, and they are at greater risk of becoming affected by criminal violence. Our work aims to study formal and non-formal educational and cognitive-behavioral programs aimed at boosting students' engagement in school, improving techincal skills, and engaging in a process of individual and social transformation to empower the youth to escape violence. 

For further reading on the toopic of education, explore the links below.