Research

Peer Reviewed Publications

Accounting for Accountability: Local Government and Social Equity in India,” Asian Survey, Vol. 55(5), Special Edition on State Capacity in India. [Forthcoming]

Manuscripts and Working Papers

“States and Gender Revolutions: The Political Economy of Inheritance Reform in India.” Book manuscript.

Reform and Representation: The Politics of Property Rights’ Enforcement in Rural India,” (under review).

“Does Granting Greater Inheritance Rights to Women Limit Son-preferring Behavior? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in India”, with Sanchari Roy (University of Sussex), and Sonia Bhalotra (University of Essex).

“Culture, Capital and the Gender Gap in Political Economy Preferences: Evidence from Meghalaya’s Tribes”, with Nikhar Gaikwad (Yale University).

Other Publications

Forthcoming – “Land Rights Without Law: Property Rights Institutions, Growth, & Development in India,” in Law and Development in India, Tom Heller & Erik Jensen, Eds. Oxford University Press India.

2006 – “Audacious Institutions: Negotiating land tenure in pre-conflict Sri Lanka,” Putting Land First? Exploring the Links Between Land & Poverty. Conference Proceedings:6th Annual Symposium on Land & Poverty in Sri Lanka. Centre for Poverty Analysis, Colombo.

Research Methodology

My research combines a range of rigorous quantitative and qualitative methods. In my book, I leverage natural quasi-experiments that alter property rights and local political institutions to causally identify the impact of institutional change. I use panel survey data for over 8,500 households to examine trends in property inheritance, demography, and political engagement. I complement quantitative methods with collection and analysis of unique qualitative data. In the course of several years of field research across India, I conducted focus group discussions and personal interviews with over 1000 agriculturalists, bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians, and activists; compiled 30 years of district-level court rulings over contested property inheritance with disputants’ geospatial coordinates; and conducted extensive archival research on state legislative debates. This combination of survey and unique qualitative data allows me to develop and test hypotheses about the mechanisms through which property rights reform alters behavior to reinforce or reduce gender inequality.

At NYU, since 2013, I have also designed and implemented a survey experiment with over 3,000 respondents in India with Nikhar Gaikwad (Yale University), which seeks to explain gender-based differences in political economy preferences. We leverage the unique cultural setting of Meghalaya, in North East India, where the few remaining matrilineal and patrilineal tribes live side by side to identify the relationship between social norms, material resources, and political preferences. Our findings indicate a channel through which social norms drive preferences about political engagement: via their effect on material resources.

Research Interests

I specialize in the comparative politics of gender, South Asia, and the political economy of institutional development. My research seeks to understand the dynamics of formal, legal political institutions and informal social institutions’ interaction. I am particularly interested in legal reforms’ impact on gender inequality.

In the future, I am excited to contribute to scholarship on three themes: First, the importance of gender in development. There is broad awareness that including women in development programs increases a range of desirable outcomes, from child nutrition to public goods and productive capital investment. While academic work acknowledges the institutional constraints to women’s inclusion, it has yet to probe the political dimensions of institutional constraints. My work seeks to unpack the conditions under which political institutions promote versus constrain gender equity, and the extent to which social institutions structure the parameters of political preferences, behavior, and institutions. Second, I look forward to advancing scholarship on the political economy of rights movements within and across formal and ‘black’ markets. Throughout the developing world, property rights are one of the most valuable traded commodities. The porous nature of formal and informal land rights in developing economies makes the definition and exchange of rights to land one of the most promising sources of funds for developing grand coalitions used to maintain and alter local political and economic power. In response, movements to define and collectively support these rights are rapidly emerging from local to international arenas. Third, I am interested in analyzing the historical shifts from equilibria supporting inegalitarian to egalitarian social institutions. Specifically, I plan to examine the political, social and economic determinants of such transformations.

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