The Centro de Estudos da Metrópole (Center for Metropolitan Studies, CEM), is one of the Centros de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão (Centers of Research, Innovation and Diffusion, CEPIDs) of the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Foundation for Research Support for the State of São Paulo, FAPESP). Headquartered at the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning, CEBRAP), CEM contains multidisciplinary group of scholars that includes demographers, political scientists, sociologists, geographers, economists and anthropologists.

Since it was established in 2000, CEM has produced internationally leading research in the social sciences on themes related to social, economic and political transformation in contemporary cities, with emphasis on the Brazilian case. Our work seeks to contribute to national and international debates about social and spatial inequalities and, as such, to promote comparison between urban and metropolitan contexts in different regions of Brazil and in other countries.

Its research agenda is basically focused on the study of dimensions related to citizens' access to well-being. In this way, the researches developed are directed to the mechanisms of production and reproduction of the social inequalities linked to the action of the State, the insertion in the labor markets and the dynamics of sociability and associative.

CEM's mission is to promote the production and development of knowledge in the field; disseminate this knowledge to society; develop new technologies, data, indicators or methodologies, supporting public policy makers; and develop the skills and knowledge of our researchers and collaborators.

CEM brings together researchers from the Department of Political Science (DCP-FFLCH), the Department of Sociology (FFLCH), the Polytechnic School (Poli) and the Faculty of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (EACH), at the University of São Paulo (USP); the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP); Institute of Education and Research (INSPER); and the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV). In addition to support from FAPESP, the Center has also been supported in the past by the National Council for Scientific Development (CNPq), having been a National Institute of Science and Technology (INCT) until 2014.

CEM's research agenda is organized into four main areas:

Research line 1: The role of subnational regulation in mediating the implementation of national policies

Previous CEM studies demonstrated that the federal regulation greatly affects how subnational governments ⎯ municipalities or state governments ⎯ implement the policies they are responsible for delivering, for example the national SUS healthcare system. However, in their capacity as policymakers, local and state governments also create new layers of regulation, which themselves influence the way policies are implemented locally. As a result, on the one hand, federal regulation creates mechanisms that push towards convergence in how decentralized policies are implemented. On the other hand, variation in subnational policy regimes pulls implementation patterns apart and creates divergence in outcomes. Previous research reveals that these contradictory tendencies affect how citizens access the same nationwide policy.

Research line 2. The role of education policy in inequality reduction

Previous CEM research has shown the crucial role of education as a vehicle for income inequality reduction. We intend to expand the scope of our study to characterize the mechanisms through which education creates opportunities for people to escape poverty. Our previous research has also highlighted the importance of studying the distinct dynamics of separate levels of education and accommodating both endogenous and exogenous processes of change.

The three studies comprised by this line of research investigate three key domains of the education agenda: (i) how decisions on funding education by state governments are made; (ii) how interactions within schools affect students’ performance; and (iii) how affirmative action policy in a large university affects student performance. 

Research Line 3. Inequality and Political Behavior

This research line treats inequality as an explanatory variable which affects public opinion preferences, how policies are implemented, and the mechanisms through which representation is framed. This research line departs from the approach of research lines 1 and 2 – which treat inequality as ann outcome to be explained by public policy – and explores how social inequality itself drives political behavior in diverse settings. 

Research Line 4. Who governs what?

This research line aims at analyzing patterns of governance which are influenced not only by the State and its agencies, but also by a diverse range of social actors. The specific relationship between civil society and the state has been shown in previous CEM research to be key to understanding governance outcomes. Two parallel subprojects address this research puzzle: (i) documenting patterns of governance in urban policies, by identifying different combinations of State agencies, and legal as well as illegal groups within civil society, and; (ii) the mechanisms that underpin the operation of illegal markets which have blossomed throughout Brazil in recent years, and how these generate both new spheres of governance and new patterns of inequality. 

The most recent lines of research are focused on factors that affect the recent trajectory of inequalities in Brazil and aim to make theoretical contributions and develop knowledge that may be of use to policymakers. Multidisciplinary, long-term research on a national scale and collaborations between national and international research groups are the essential strategies behind this proposal.

The research model adopted within CEM follows that of the social sciences, that is, a supervising professor who acts as research coordinator working with his or her students, thus allowing the Center to pursue one of its key objectives, of supporting the development of young researchers. The research groups consist of researchers at different points in their career: undergraduate research students, master’s and PhD students (with scholarships from their respective university programs), and researchers with post-doctoral scholarships.