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Research Themes

The Kellogg Institute for International Studies is committed to the pursuit of scholarly excellence and to value-driven research that helps to advance human welfare around the world. We focus on understanding and promoting the conditions that allow people to participate in shaping their own futures, while living in dignity and freedom.

Two of the most critical issues facing humanity, democracy and human development, are at the core of the Institute’s research agenda. Of particular interest are research projects that explicitly link the themes of democracy and human development.


The broad umbrella of democracy studies includes research on:

  • The founding, institutionalization, and quality of democratic regimes, including the quality of public life;

  • Democratic governability and accountability and the expansion and consolidation of human rights and the rule of law;

  • Public policies for social justice, with an emphasis on how government can foster social well-being and on linkages between government, business, and civil society;

  • The relationship between religion and politics, examining the impact of religious belief on public life and the role of religion in civil society;

  • Civil society and social movements, including their formation, activity, and inclusion in the political process, with a focus on conceptions of citizenship and political regimes types;

  • Citizen participation, such as the role of indigenous languages in the issue of participation;

  • Varieties of democracy, including conceptualization and measurement;

  • Democracy’s past and legacy.

Human Development

Research on the theme of Human Development includes:

  • Public policies for social justice, examining the way social policy, market activities, and social change combine to affect the distribution of wealth, opportunity, and quality of life;

  • Economic growth, development, and human welfare in a globalizing economy, considering the roles of economic, political, social, and cultural institutions, government policies, market structures, distributional issues, international trade and finance, and economic geography;

  • Global health, including issues of public health, health delivery, and policy and practice at local, regional, national, and international levels;

  • Education, examining policy, institutions, innovative programs, and practice at the macro and micro levels;

  • Religion, society, and culture, investigating the influence of culture, religious belief, and religious and cultural institutions upon social change;

  • Human rights and their relationship with improvements in human welfare;

  • Evaluation of development projects and processes to ascertain best practices that may inform policy in one or more regions of the world.

Kellogg has long followed a strategy of identifying a few themes of exceptional importance to our world. In our 2011-2016 strategic plan, the Institute rearticulated its research themes, integrating the five that have long been central to the Institute by placing democracy and human development at the core of our efforts. While building on geographic strengths in Latin America and increasingly in Africa, this framing has allowed Kellogg to engage energetically in these themes across the globe, particularly in the developing world.

A new strategic plan developed for 2017-2022 advances our work on democracy and human development—the twin aspirations of effective political participation and improved human welfare—recognizing them as two of the most critical and challenging issues facing humanity in the 21st century. These themes continue to resonate with the normative questions that inspire our Catholic university, as both have long been central themes in the Church's teachings about human dignity.




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The Kellogg Institute promotes scholarship, learning, and linkages that address issues of critical importance to our world. At the center of our interdisciplinary community’s work are two key themes: democratization and human development. 

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