About the Global Shifts Research Theme

Urbanization, migration, and demographic changes are transforming the human environment, creating both new challenges and opportunities. The UN High Commission for Refugees said in 2015 that the world faces the highest level of human displacement since 1950. New and changing migration patterns have depth and nuance that have proven hard to predict – or track. At the same time, over 66% of the world’s population will live in urban spaces by 2050, raising critical questions about urban vitality and sustainability. Yet, the diverse causes and consequences of urbanization, migration, and demographic change have not been fully understood and are too often examined in isolation.


The research theme, Global Shifts: Urbanization, Migration, and Demography, was developed through a consultative process with faculty from all twelve schools and highlights areas of expertise within Penn, and especially at the Penn Institute for Urban Research, the Population Studies Center, and the Center for the Advanced Study of India. In this theme, Perry World House has hosted a series of high-level workshops to advance substantive, policy-relevant work in this space; produced a research digest highlighting the work of over 45 Penn faculty members conducting work connected to this theme; participated in Habitat III, the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in Quite, Ecuador; and funded two research projects inspired by our experts’ workshop at Penn following Habitat III. 

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