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. 

PWH at the World Urban Forum

  • Three Penn research centers are collaborating to showcase Penn’s expertise on urban issues at this year’s World Urban Forum (WUF9), the world’s premier conference on urban issues, which is being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from February 7-13, 2018. The three centers—the Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR), the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy (KCEP), and Perry World House (PWH)— are deeply involved in WUF. Made up of 14 scholars, students, and staff members, the Penn delegation is publishing a white paper series that tackles key topics central to the urbanization debate and staging a multidisciplinary exhibition of Penn research at the week-long event.

    Through these efforts, the three centers aim to showcase their research as well as the research of established and emerging Penn scholars affiliated with the centers. By joining forces to present at this year’s WUF9, the centers aim to bring timely Penn-based scholarship that addresses pressing sustainable urbanization issues to leading policymakers and practitioners across the globe. 


    Perry World House’s Director Bill Burke-White, past Visiting Fellows Anne Richard and Ian Klaus, and Program Manager Kate Leader have all contributed papers to this series, which can be found here.


    To read the research papers prepared for the World Urban Forum, please visit: http://wuf9.upenn.edu.

    For more information on the World Urban Forum click here.

    To see Penn's exhibition materials click here, and to see Penn's speaker series schedule, click here.

Spring 2017 Global Shifts Colloquium Thought Pieces

Examining the Environments That Displace

Sustaining and Improving Urban Life

Strengthening the Urban Inclusion of Refugee and Migrant Populations

Additional Publications: