Leyla Karimli


Assistant Professor of Social Welfare

Home Department: Social Welfare


A new assistant professor of social welfare, Leyla Karimli’s research interests focus on a multidimensional and systems-oriented analysis of poverty and social exclusion in a global context. Her research is based on the proposition that poverty needs to be treated as a complex phenomenon experienced not only in terms of material deprivation but also as a lack of access to education and health, exposure to vulnerability and risk, powerlessness, and social exclusion.

Leyla’s research agenda employs multidisciplinary research that addresses the varied dimensions of poverty, inequality and social exclusion globally and seeks remedies at not only the micro- but also the mezzo- and macro- levels. Her research aims to understand to what extent do the various forms of economic empowerment policies and programs improve individuals’ self-efficacy and future orientation, and whether this effect manifests itself in actual choices and life decisions that, in the long run, help people cope with poverty and social exclusion. Her research also tries to explore how family- and community-level social capital shapes the programs and policies targeting poverty and social exclusion among low-income families. She specifically focuses on understanding the role of social capital and informal safety nets in improving people’s wellbeing in developing countries, where almost the entirety of the safety net is provided not by governments but by communities and families.

Leyla has 13 years of international research and practice experience focusing on poverty and social exclusion, including working with international development agencies in the former Soviet Union and Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, Leyla is involved in research in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Colombia, Philippines, and Tajikistan.

Leyla received her PhD from Columbia University’s School of Social Work with a concentration in social policy and social welfare. She completed her postdoctoral trainings at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and New York University’s Silver School of Social Work’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. She was a Scholar in Residence at the University of Antwerp’s Institute of Development Policy and Management, and she is a faculty affiliate at Columbia University’s International Center on Child Health and Asset Development (ICHAD) and UCLA’s California Center for Population Research (CCPR).

Selected Research

Ssewamala, F. M., Karimli, L., Neilands, T. B., Wang, J. S. H., Han, C. K., Ilic, V., & Nabunya, P. (2016) Applying a family-level economic strengthening intervention to improve education and health-related outcomes of school-going AID-orphaned children: Lessons from a randomized experiment in Southern Uganda. Prevention Science, 17 (1), 134-143

Karimli, L. & Ssewamala, F.M. (2015) Do savings mediate changes in adolescents’ future orientation and health-related outcomes? Findings from randomized experiment in Uganda. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57 (4), 425-432

Karimli, L., Ssewamala, F. M., Neilands, T. B., & McKay, M. MK. (2015) Matched children savings accounts in low resource communities: Who saves? Global Social Welfare, 2 (2), 53-64

Karimli, L., Ssewamala, F. M., & Neilands, T. B. (2014) Poor families striving to save in matched children’s savings accounts: Findings from a randomized experimental design in Uganda. Social Service Review, 88 (4), 658-694

Karimli, L., Ssewamala, F. M., & Ismayilova, L. (2012) Extended families and perceived caregiver support to AIDS orphans in Rakai district of Uganda. Children and Youth Services Review, 345 (7), 1351-1358

Ismayilova, L., Ssewamala, F. M., & Karimli, L. (2012) Family support as a mediator of change in sexual risk-taking attitudes among orphaned adolescents in rural Uganda. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50 (3), 228-235

Ssewamala, F. M., Wang, J. S. H., Karimli, L., & Nabunya, P. (2011) Strengthening universal primary education in Uganda: The potential role of a family asset-based development program. International Journal of Educational Development, 31 (5), 472-477

Ssewamala, F. M., Karimli, L., Han, CK, & Ismayilova, L. (2010). Social capital, savings, and educational outcomes of orphaned adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(12), 1704-1710

Ssewamala, F. M., Sperber, E., Zimmerman, J., & Karimli, L. (2010). The potential of asset-based development strategies for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Social Welfare,19 (4), 433-443

For full list of publications please visit her page at ResearchGate