Vijayendra Rao



  • Advisor
  • Successful Societies


  • World Bank
Developmental Research Group


  • United States


PhD (Economics), University of Pennsylvania
BA (Economics, with Statistics and Sociology), Bombay University


Vijayendra Rao integrates his training in economics with theories and methods from sociology and political science to study the social, cultural and political context of extreme poverty in developing countries.

He leads the World Bank’s Social Observatory, an interdisciplinary effort to improve the implementation of anti-poverty projects by building their ‘adaptive capacity’;  i.e., the ability of projects to make everyday decisions, and modify project design, on the basis of high-quality descriptive, evaluative and process-oriented information. Rao’s research has spanned a wide variety of subjects, including the rise in dowries in India, the determinants and consequences of domestic violence, the economics of sex work, public celebrations, culture and development policy, participatory development and deliberative democracy.


Life Member, Institute for Social and Economic Change, since 2009
Social Development Board, World Bank, 2002–14
Gender Board, World Bank, 2002–07

Relevant Publications

Rao. V., and P. Heller, eds. Deliberation and development: Rethinking the role of voice and collective action in unequal societies. Washington, DC: World Bank Group, 2015.
Mansuri, G., and V. Rao. “Can Participation be Induced? Evidence from Developing Countries.” Crit. Rev. Int. Soc. Polit. Philos. 16, no. 2 (2013): 284–304.
Mansuri, G., and V. Rao. Localizing Development: Does Participation Work? Washington, DC: World Bank Group, 2013.

Ban, R. et al. “Who has Voice in a Deliberative Democracy? Evidence from Transcripts of Village Parliaments in India.” J. Dev. Econ. 99, no. 10 (November 2012): 428–38. 

Besley, T. et al. “Participatory Democracy in Action: Survey Evidence From Rural India." J. Eur. Econ. Assoc. 3 (April–May 2005).