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About the SPEC Lab

The past 150 years have seen a transformative rise in global prosperity and a steady decline in war. In many respect, humanity has never been better off. But we cannot simply assume these trends will continue. The world spends more on arming today than it did at the height of the Cold War. Military power is far from obsolete, and the threat of major war is much less remote than we would like.


The Security and Political Economy (SPEC) Lab, based in the University of Southern California, conducts cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research into the causes of prosperity and peace and their relationship to one another.


We draw students from a wide range of fields including International Relations, Economics, Computer Science, Political Science, Environmental Studies, and Mathematics. We focus in particular on recruiting female, minority, and first generation students. In a close-knit, supportive research community we have the luxury of working with the next generation of social science researchers.  

In the SPEC lab, we learn by doing. Junior lab members receive, and senior lab members help provide, formal training, but from day one lab members are working alongside faculty and doctoral students on cutting edge research projects, every one of which is aimed toward producing actionable research findings. Every exercise is live. That means mistakes are costly, but successes deliver more than a grade – they deliver policy-relevant results that address some of the world's most pressing global challenges. 

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