Social policies in the Global South

The ERC supports excellent frontier research of creative researchers. What is unique about your project COLSOC?

In COLSOC, we analyse the causes of poverty and inequality that exist in many countries of the Global South. The project combines history and contemporary topics, different disciplines such as political science, sociology and historical science as well as quantitative and qualitative analyses in a unique way. This allows for a comprehensive perspective and thus a fundamental understanding of why some societies are more unequal and poorerthat others.

What are the aims of your project?

The starting point of the project was the observation that in many countries of the Global South, social security systems such as pension and health care tend to increase inequality and poverty instead of decreasing it. In COLSOC, we aim to better understand why this is the case. Such an understanding is a basic prerequisite for addressing poverty and social inequality today. My argument is that a key to successfully combating the current situation lies in the colonial past of these countries.

The ERC emphasises it’s bottom-up approach which ensures that funds flow into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility. How would you describe the research design of your project COLSOC?

We are investigating the aforementioned relationships both quantitatively and qualitatively. On the one hand, we have developed a database that allows us to examine general patterns between social policy, colonialism, inequality and poverty in about 40 countries in the Global South. On the other hand, based on the quantitative analyses, we look more closely in four African countries to better understand the exact causal mechanisms. Two former French and two former British colonies were selected, respectively, which also differ with respect to an explanatory factor central to the literature, namely population density. Specifically, we examine the relationship between colonialism and social policy in Senegal, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, and Cameroon.

Researchers from all over the world apply for ERC funding and it’s famous for being very competitive. What inspired you to submit an application?

I was convinced by the idea and saw the great need for research in this area. Besides: Nothing ventured, nothing gained

What are the three pieces of advice you would like to share with future applicants?

First, it takes conviction:  Not to be too much oriented to fashions, but rather to one's own ideas, one's own enthusiasm, conviction and curiosity. Second, to be able to take criticism: It helps to discuss one's ideas with other people and to face critical questions. Thirdly: Don't give up so easily. Not everything always succeeds the first time. Sometimes it pays to stick with it, keep going and try again.  

Further details

contact: Prof. Dr. Carina Schmitt

Professorship of Public policy

Link to project website:

More details in the research results database of the European Commission: