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Vijayendra Rao Economist

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 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.  His 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, 2009-present.

Social Development Board, World Bank, 2002-2014.

Gender Board, World Bank, 2002-2007.

Relevant Publications

G. Mansuri and V. Rao, “Can Participation be Induced? Evidence from Developing Countries,” Crit. Rev. Int. Soc. Polit. Philos., vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 284-304, 2013

R. Ban et al, “Who has Voice in a Deliberative Democracy? Evidence from Transcripts of Village Parliaments in India,” J. Dev. Econ., vol. 99, no. 10, pp. 428-438, Nov. 2012

V. Rao and P. Sanyal, “Dignity Through Discourse: Poverty and the Culture of Deliberation in Indian Village Democracies,” Ann. Am. Acad. Polit. S. S., vol. 629, pp. 146-172, May 2010.

S. Jha et al, “Governance in the Gullies: Democratic Responsiveness and Community Leadership in Delhi’s Slums,” World Development, 2006.

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


V. Rao and P. Heller, Eds., Deliberation and development : Rethinking the role of voice and collective action in unequal societies, Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group, 2015.

G. Mansuri and V. Rao, Localizing Development: Does Participation Work?, Washington DC: World Bank Group, 2013.

V. Rao and M. Walton, Eds., Culture and Public Action, Stanford Social Sciences, 2004.



Advisor Successful Societies


The World BankDevelopmental Research Group


PhD (Economics) University of Pennsylvania

BA (Economics, with Statistics and Sociology) Bombay University


United States

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How can we improve development aid to empower communities?

Every year, billions of dollars are spent on development aid to try to empower communities to participate in the decision...