While GPD promotes and supports research in the general area of development studies, it is especially focused on the one of the most crucial–but intractable–problems of the twenty-first century: the persistence of old and the production of new forms of inequality in the developing world. Inequality has long been treated as a specialized sub-area of social science research, but two recent developments have given the topic broader meaning and new urgency. On the one hand, even as globalization has created new opportunities, it has also generated new forms of inequality. On the other hand, there is increased recognition that high levels of inequality present substantial barriers to economic growth, democratic participation, social cohesion and environmental sustainability.

In developed economies the interplay of gender, class, race, and income inequalities has been extensively researched, but in developing countries the problem of inequality, although widely recognized, has received surprisingly little attention from researchers. Dealing with this challenge requires not just more effort, but a transformative new research strategy. The goal of GPD is to support and promote an interdisciplinary research community that integrates faculty, graduate students, and international collaborators, and combines advanced measurement and analytical techniques with grounded understanding of local contexts in the developing world. Integral to this new research paradigm is training a new generation of students who will simultaneously have interdisciplinary theoretical tools to understand the complexity of inequality in developing countries, cutting-edge methods to analyze data, and the extensive field experience necessary to collect quality data and interpret their results.