Poverty and Social Exclusion

The Kerala Model of Development which won accolades for high social development with low economic growth, also had its “outliers” or sections of the society that the development bypassed; namely the Scheduled Tribes and the Fisher-folk. Bringing the issues faced by such marginalised sections into mainstream academic and policy-level discourse is an objective that CSES has persistently followed. Research at CSES also addresses issues of other groups of marginalised sections in the society such as the rural and urban poor, migrant workers, elderly and differently abled. For instance, studies on alternative education, tribal health, education of migrant children, management of household finances by poor, indebtedness among rural poor, welfare legislation for vulnerable groups, etc. bring out issues faced by these marginalised sections in domains such as education, health and livelihood. Similarly, the marginalisation lens is applied to other research pursued at CSES to understand the dimensions of inequality and exclusion faced by these vulnerable sections vis-à-vis others, be it in service delivery, local governance or social development.

Health and Demography

Dynamics of Kerala’s demographic transition— high life expectancy, low infant, child and maternal mortality, decreasing share of children and increasing share of elderly in the population —has been a focus area of research at CSES. These demographic issues have been explored to identify changes observed, adaptations required in social sectors of education and health and in relation to the population pressure on land. Health is a domain where CSES has worked extensively across regions, by conducting various rounds of District Level Household Survey on Reproductive and Child Health, Global Adult Tobacco Survey and Global Youth Tobacco Survey in different states. CSES has also conducted studies on the provision of health care services by the government and health care utilisation, health care expenditure and health outcomes of the general population as well as vulnerable sections such as women, tribal groups, differently abled and elderly. Research studies of the Centre highlight the health issues that are relevant in the context of Kerala and those that are different from those faced at the national level, and thus require a different approach and prioritisation.

Governance and Public Service Delivery

A major area of interest of CSES is how services are delivered to the general public by government agencies. From time to time, CSES has looked into service delivery of various public agencies, including government schools, health care facilities, anganwadis, welfare institutions, local governments and government offices. Through this research, CSES has identified service delivery parameters important to the citizens and developed performance indicators across these parameters that facilitate evaluation over time. Most of these studies are commissioned by various Government agencies including the Modernising Government Program (MGP), Kerala Local Government Service Delivery Project (KLGSDP)and the Fourth Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of the Government of Kerala. The studies on water governance conducted for the World Bank and Jalanidhi focused on the sustainability of small water supply schemes.


Education has been a major research theme of CSES ever since its inception. Being located in Kerala, a region which received national and international attention for its achievement in the field of education, CSES has tried to develop an insider’s perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s education system right from pre-school education to professional and higher education. Broadly, CSES studies examined the social, economic, financial and management aspects of the education sector. Some of the specific aspects examined include exclusionary trends in the education sector, education of marginalised groups such as children from tribal families, children with disabilities and children of migrant labour, entry barriers to professional and higher education, private cost of education, changing enrolment patterns, functioning of the alternative schooling system, grants-in-aid policies and practices of the state government and service delivery in government schools.

Labour and Migration

Labour studies is a prominent research theme pursued at the CSES particularly with a focus on labour market transformation in the state of Kerala. CSES conducted a pioneering study on interstate labour migration to Kerala. Of late, with increasing long-distance labour inflows to Kerala, CSES has been focusing on research to assess vulnerabilities encountered by migrant workers, education of migrant children and social protection programs available and accessible to the migrant population. Apart from the studies on interstate labour migration, CSES has also worked on international labour migration as well as labour market outcomes of youth.

Public Finance

Right from its inception, public finance has been one of the core areas of research activity at the Centre. Issues related to state finances and fiscal federalism  – fiscal powers of the central, state and local governments are some of the key research topics pursued in this area. The Centre has consistently examined the implications of the recommendations of successive Central Finance Commissions to Kerala through its studies.  Public expenditure management in the social sector is another area in which the Centre has engaged extensively. CSES has also undertaken the analysis of state and local government budgets with respect to allocation for children. Scheduled Tribes and Persons with Disabilities. These topics within public finance are closely intertwined with other core areas of the Centre such as inclusive governance, public service delivery and decentralised governance.


Another major area of research wherein CSES has done various studies is that of Decentralisation; research done includes studies on service delivery, planning, budgeting and financial management and analysis of local government budgets conducted for UNICEF, Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Kerala State Planning Board and Action Aid. CSES has also been extending technical support to several rural and urban local governments in different sectors such as in the preparation of perspective plans and for GIS based planning and preparation of watershed development plans. CSES is an ‘Institutional National Level Monitor’ of the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India and is involved in monitoring the implementation of rural development programs and the functioning of the local governments in different states in India.