Vijayendra Rao



  • Advisory Committee Chair
  • Boundaries, Membership & Belonging


  • 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 Social Observatory, an inter-disciplinary effort to improve the conversation between citizens and governments.

His research has spanned a wide variety of subjects including participatory development, collective action, deliberative democracy, the rise in dowries in India, the determinants and consequences of domestic violence, the economics of sex work, public celebrations, and culture and development policy. 

He has worked with governments and NGOs to design, implement, and evaluate policy interventions that harness the capacity of collective action and participation to reduce poverty, bridge gender and group-based boundaries, and improve the delivery of public services, in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Jamaica and Sri Lanka. 


 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., & Heller, P. (eds.). (2015).  Deliberation and development: Rethinking the role of voice and collective action in unequal societies. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

Mansuri, G., & Rao, V. (2013). Can participation be induced? Evidence from developing countries. Crit. Rev. Int. Soc. Polit. Philos, 16(2), 284–304.

Mansuri, G., & Rao, V. (2013). Localizing development: Does participation work? Washington: World Bank Group.
Ban, R. et al. (2012). Who has Voice in a Deliberative Democracy? Evidence from Transcripts of Village Parliaments in India. J. Dev. Econ99(10), 428–38. 
Besley, T. et al. (2005). Participatory democracy in action: Survey evidence from rural India. J. Eur. Econ. Assoc, 3