UChicago to administer $50 million grant for Weiss Fund supporting research in development economics

CRI Foundation, Inc. commitment to fund innovative projects in developing countries around the world

A $50 million grant commitment to the University of Chicago from CRI Foundation, Inc. will establish the University as the administrative home of the Weiss Fund for Research in Development Economics, a fund established by a grant from CRI to support frontier research in development economics focused on issues affecting less-developed countries.

The grant will fund projects by researchers at leading institutions around the world that will address a wide range of issues. CRI, a global foundation founded by Andrew and Bonnie Weiss focused on connecting resources to the needs of communities around the world, created the Weiss Fund in 2012 to support research in development economics that will help address poverty in less developed countries.

The Weiss Fund supports research in developing countries by graduate students and faculty at top universities around the world, including the University of Chicago, as well as affiliates of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Center for Economic Policy Research, and the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development. In addition to supporting research projects, the Weiss Fund also aims to attract promising researchers to the field and help them develop, and it creates links to policy and implementation for the most relevant and promising research. 

“The University of Chicago has cultivated pioneering economics scholarship at the highest level, through our own faculty and students and through engagement with a robust international community of scholars,” President Robert J. Zimmer said. “This commitment will help expand support for scholars in development economics at many institutions who are addressing complex, global challenges and making a vital, positive impact through their research.” 

Since the Weiss Fund’s inception in 2012, Prof. Michael Kremer has served as faculty director of the Fund, which was administered by Harvard University from 2012-2020. When Kremer joined the University of Chicago faculty in the fall of 2020, administration of the Weiss Fund transferred from Harvard to the University of Chicago.

“The ultimate purpose of the Weiss Fund is to support research that will improve the lives of people living in poverty,” said Kremer, University Professor in Economics and the College and the Harris School of Public Policy. “The Weiss Fund will continue to support leading researchers in the field in producing creative, rigorous evidence that will have a positive impact on millions of people’s lives.”

In 2019, the Fund began a global expansion with the donation of additional funds when Kremer, along with fellow Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of MIT, committed the entirety of their 9 million Swedish kroner in prize money (approximately $1,006,940) to the Weiss Fund. At that time, CRI also drastically increased its commitment, pledging $50 million to the Weiss Fund over 16 years, through 2035. The Weiss Fund now provides funding to an expanded pool of eligible students and faculty and is launching new programs (i.e., pre- and postdoctoral fellowships) to support researchers entering the field.

“Abhijit, Esther and I truly believe that our Nobel Prize is an award for the development economics community, and we wanted to invest it in a way that provides new opportunities for research,” Kremer said. “As such, there was no better place to put our prize money than the Weiss Fund.”

Andrew Weiss is the founder and chief executive officer of Weiss Asset Management, a Boston-based investment firm, and a world-renowned economist. He and his wife, Bonnie, and their daughter Kara, have dedicated much of the last 15 years to fighting poverty by directly supporting local program implementers in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I am honored to have the dedicated support of Michael Kremer, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo in leading the Weiss Fund toward its goals of supporting a vibrant community of young scholars in development economics, promoting innovative research and producing research that ultimately leads to meaningful change at scale,” Andrew Weiss said. “We look forward to broadening the impact of development economics and to continue opening up opportunities for talented researchers to enter the field.”

Since its launch in 2012, the Weiss Fund has supported more than 150 projects led by more than 180 scholars from leading institutions.