Vijayendra Rao



  • Advisory Committee Chair
  • Boundaries, Membership & Belonging


  • World Bank
Developmental Research Group


  • United States


PhD (Economics), University of Pennsylvania


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. 



Relevant Publications

Oral Democracy: Deliberation in Indian Village Assemblies, (with Paromita Sanyal), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, December 2018

Localizing Development: Does Participation Work? (with Ghazala Mansuri), World Bank Policy Research Report, World Bank, Washington DC, 2013

“Deliberative Democracy in an Unequal World: A Text-As-Data Analysis of South India’s Village Assemblies” (with R. Parthasarathy and N. Palaniswamy) American Political Science Review, May 2019

“Social Safety Nets and Natural Disaster Mitigation: Evidence from Hurricane Phailin in Odisha,” (with Paul Christian, Eeshani Kandpal, and Nethra Palaniswamy), Climatic Change, March 2019

“Terror as a Bargaining Instrument: A Case Study of Dowry Violence in Rural India," (with Francis Bloch), American Economic Review, Vol 92, #4, September 2002, Pp: 1029-1043