I am currently an Associate Professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. I am trained as a development micro-economist. My research largely focusses on human capital at the grassroots level of society. Much of my work focusses on South Asia.
My lived experiences in India taught me early on that investments in human capital — health, education, marriage, divorce, migration, the responsibilities of care-giving and building community — are influenced by economic, social and political forces. Today, as a mother of two children in American society, seeking to balance an academic career with a myriad of familial and societal obligations, I have learned that the same forces are at play in high-income countries. My interests go well beyond the ever-rational and self-interested Homo Economicus (or economic man) of neoclassical economic theory. He (this is definitely a man) is guided by individual preferences, participates in markets, is well-served by formal institutions rather than social norms. I see people’s lives as far more complicated. A woman in a traditional society typically finds herself at the center of powerful familial and social structures. She typically has weak access to information, markets, and formal institutions. She must cooperate, rather than compete, to exercise her agency. These processes are critical to human capital investments, and they are central in my research.
My research agenda has three components:
- Health — I examine the long-term economic and demographic impacts of large-scale policies such as family-planning programs, maternal and child-health programs, and environmental programs;
- Collective action and local politics — I use data from my own field-studies to examine the long-term impact of collectives such as women’s farmer cooperatives, women’s savings groups, and public interest litigators in India;
- Social identity — I examine how facets of social identity such as religion, endogamous marriage and caste, all have long-term economic consequences for women.
My work ranges from the analysis of large datasets to quantify the effects of public policies, to small-scale studies that involve extensive fieldwork using a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods.
My complete CV is available here.