Message from New LIS Director Peter Lanjouw

Dear readers,

I am delighted to be writing to you as the new LIS Director. It is enormously exciting to be stepping in the shoes of Daniele Checchi whose five years in charge have left LIS more visible, respected and relevant than ever. I am grateful for the trust and confidence that has been put in me by Daniele, the LIS team, and by Francois Bourguignon and the entire ASBL. I am honored too, to be following in the footsteps of previous directors Janet Gornick, Markus Jantti, and founders Tim Smeeding and Lee Rainwater. I look forward to forging good working relations with the LIS team and hope to take advantage of the reasonably close proximity of my home town, Amsterdam, to Esch-Belval in order to become a regular face also in the corridors of the LIS office in Luxembourg.

The LIS Directorship was perhaps not the most immediately obvious step in my career. After 23 years in the research department of the World Bank, I have been teaching economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam since early 2015. I am a development economist and have been focused on development issues throughout my career. However, analyzing and measuring economic wellbeing in low income countries has been a central focus of my research throughout the past three decades. I have been heavily exposed to the challenges and opportunities that household survey data embody. I have been involved in the study of issues surrounding data harmonization, and I have actively participated in the exploration of methods to strengthen data comparability. From that perspective, the move to LIS with its mission to disseminate high quality, harmonized, household survey data, makes a good deal of sense. I am thrilled to come on board for this reason.

I hope, moreover, that my experience and background in development may also be helpful given the particular juncture that LIS finds itself at. There is steadily increasing flow of datasets from low and middle-income countries entering into the LIS archives. Whether, and how, to harmonize these with the core LIS data, are important questions. There clearly exists demand for an ability to conduct cross-country comparisons, along a variety of dimensions, involving both developed and developing countries. But as the range of countries in terms of levels of economic development, widens, the underlying data also become increasingly diverse in terms of quality, structure, and composition. Fundamental questions, such as the definition of income, consumption and wealth have to be revisited. New harmonization methods may need to be experimented with. Judgement calls have to be made. We need to reflect on how LIS can best navigate these new opportunities. I hope to contribute to that reflection.

As ideas develop, we will be looking to air them in our LIS newsletter. I hope that you will also convey to us your thoughts and reactions. It promises to be an exciting time!

Peter Lanjouw

September 16, 2021 | News