Mexican social development secretariat teams with National Opinion Research Center to study ways to improve Mexican development

Mexico's social and economic development could get a boost through an agreement signed Thursday between the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago and Mexican Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL).

The agreement will facilitate research to improve social programs for the poor and provide critical data for economic analysis of the country as a whole. Combining the expertise of policy makers on the ground and the researchers at the University of Chicago, the agreement aims to make new strides in evaluating current programs and devising new approaches to spur economic growth.

Researchers and policy makers from both organizations in Mexico and the United States will come together to form a technical committee that will determine the research priorities.

"Once the committee determines the research agenda, SEDESOL will help provide access to the information and the NORC will carry out the research project, with the participation of SEDESOL," said Javier Su'arez Morales, Director General, SEDESOL, who came Thursday to Chicago to sign the agreement, which had also been previously signed by Felix Velez, Undersecretary for SEDESOL.

For the project, the Mexican government will provide researchers at the University of Chicago with access to comprehensive data including, census information, survey information, geographic information, and data on the characteristics of beneficiaries of social programs.Researchers from both institutions will work together to evaluate the impact of different socioeconomic programs implemented by SEDESOL and model policy alternatives.

SEDESOL will work closely with researchers at NORC to determine research topics of mutual interest that will not only benefit SEDESOL's programming efforts, but will also strengthen academic understandings of poverty, development and growth in Mexico."The agreement will strengthen the cooperation between the NORC and SEDESOL andpromote the integration and development of databases that will collect the kinds of information researchers need to develop computer simulations that suggest how the Mexican government can make infrastructure changes, educational investments, and other improvements that would lead to economic expansion," said Robert Townsend, the Charles Merriam Professor in Economics at the University.

"NORC is very pleased to enter into this agreement with SEDESOL. Combining the rich data from SEDESOL with Professor Townsend's ground-breaking analytic approaches is certain to produce results that will both advance our understanding of the Mexican economy and provide insights that can inform decisions by Mexican policymakers," said Jeffrey Telgarsky, Sr. Vice-President and Director, International Projects, NORC.

Townsend will spearhead the research initiative on behalf of NORC.His work on entrepreneurship and wealth creation in Thailand, supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, will provide the blueprint for analysis on Mexico.

Townsend's most recent project, the Enterprise Initiative funded by the Templeton Foundation, collaborates with the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago to develop an innovative new web-based program to look at policy implications.The Computation Institute's new program uses models, maps and graphs to simulate and visualize policy changes. The approach has already been applied to Thailand and through the NORC-SEDESOL agreement, Townsend hopes to be able to better apply it to an emerging economy like Mexico.

SEDESOL functions as a ministry of the Mexican federal government and is responsible for furthering social and economic development.It provides important social programs for children, families, the elderly, agricultural workers and the unemployed.