In its work, the Working Group placed priority on research that would be most likely to inform current policy questions about how to allocate scarce resources to achieve higher rates of economic growth and a faster reduction in poverty. This is done with the recognition that orienting research in this manner may miss excellent, innovative ideas for research on historical trends and fundamental relationships that may not appear to be associated with “policy variables,” as currently defined. Thus, this research agenda makes no claim to represent the breadth of useful and important social science related to elucidating relationships between economic, demographic, and health variables.
The Working Group identified three main substantive areas under which lines of empirical research would be useful for the medium-term policy agenda. For each, investment in data collection and application of appropriate research strategies promise to lead to more definitive and generalizable findings than has been possible in the past. These substantive priorities can be summarized:
- Given the projected trends in fertility and mortality changes, what are the implications for economic growth and income distribution and the incidence of poverty?
- How does investment in reproductive health affect economic conditions at the household level, including the productivity, labor force participation and savings behavior of women, children, and households?
- How do different types of investments in reproductive health affect the health of women and children? How does the type and organization of services affect their effectiveness, including ability to reach poor and vulnerable populations?