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Behind the Scenes of Economics Research

Catch us discussing the story behind research papers from the authors themselves. In this season we talk to 6 women researchers about their experience of research, from start to finish to discuss the narratives which are often left undiscussed. Stay tuned to know and learn more through the interesting conversations which will unfold in the coming weeks. 

Logo : Soham Sen
BTS Production Team: Ria Dutta, Sakshi Hallan, Samhita Kuntia, Fizza Suhel, Prerna Kundu, & Ridhi Aggarwal
Link to our Episode Guide 

Each episode has show notes where you can find research papers, resources or researchers mentioned by the speaker with all links attached. 
00:00 / 02:37

In an attempt to shed light on the experiences of female development researchers, Women in Econ and Policy brings to you a unique podcast series – Behind the Scenes of Economics Research. In every episode of this podcast, we pick a research study and go behind the scenes of its making through a conversation between a female Principal Investigator on the project and a research assistant or junior researcher. Through this dialogue, we dive into the research process of making notable papers and uncover the underlying gendered experiences.

Stay tuned; we’ll see you with a super exciting research paper in our next episode!


Show Notes

Show Notes

Papers cited: 


  • Study on faculty positions and authorship in academic journals

Presence of Women in Economics Academia: Evidence from India

  • Study on women in academic seminars: 

Gender and the dynamics of economics seminars. No. w28494. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021.


Notes: The statistics for faculty positions is at the Professor level in India. If Associate and Assistant Professor positions are accounted for, this figure stands at 28.5% in India.

Audio Clip Credits and Links:

1. Naila Kabeer

2. Rohini Pande

3. Marylin Waring

4. Jayati Ghosh

5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

6. Reuters Clips

EPISODE  1 : Using Machine Learning & Qualitative Interviews

Our first guest speaker Dr. Monica Biradavolu, Founder and CEO of QualAnalytics and our host Ambika Chopra, Senior Research Associate at J-PAL South Asia to host an episode where they discuss an approach which combines mixed-methods data collection and machine learning. 

 The host and the speaker discuss the paper Using machine learning and qualitative interviews to design a five-question women’s agency index’. Together they highlight the challenges, success, and some interesting behind-the-scenes of the paper. Dr. Monica shares her experiences and how her perception of ‘women’s agency’ evolved while working on the paper.

"What seems like the perfect example of agency to one woman might not be the same for another. It’s important to acknowledge such subjectivities and caveats  in surveys when  gathering  pre-planned data."


Dr. Monica, on the basis of her field experiences, also talks about the scope of using ML in designing such short surveys. Tune in now for a riveting interview-cum-conversation!


Show Notes

Show Notes

Paper Discussed: Using machine learning and qualitative interviews to design a five-question women’s agency index’

Open access : here 

Speaker Profile : 

                               Guest Speaker

                                 Monica Biradavolu is the CEO and Founder                                         of QualAnalytics and is Scholar-in-Residence                                       at American University. She holds a PhD in                                           Sociology from Duke University. She advocates                                   for mixed methods evaluations, integrating                                         rigorous qualitative methods with                                                         quantitative surveys. 


Ambika Chopra is a Senior Research Associate

at J-PAL South Asia on the Monitoring Public

and Private Hospital Participation in the

Health Insurance ProjectPrior to that, she

was a Qualitative Consultant on a mix method

study Measuring Women’s Agency.

Researchers mentioned:

1. Prof. Vandana Madan - Universirty of Delhi

2. Prof. Shubha Shankaran - Universirty of Delhi

3. Kim BlankenshipAmerican University

4. Mario Luis Small - Columbia University

Resources mentioned:

1. Dangers of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (TEDtalk)

2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (book)

3. Nanette by Hannah Gadsby (stand-up show)

Episode Art credit: istock photo

EPISODE  2 : Sex Workers, Stigma, and Self-Image: Evidence from Kolkata Brothels

Our guest speaker Anandi Mani walks the listeners through her paper - Sex Workers, Stigma, and Self-Image: Evidence from Kolkata Brothels along with our host Avantika Prabhakar, a PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Virginia.

The second episode focuses on the paper which studies the link between self-image and behavior among those who face stigma due to poverty and social exclusion. Anandi speaks of her experiences, collaborating with Dr. Smarajit Jana and Durbar; an organisation working for sex workers’ rights.


Using a randomized field experiment with sex workers in Kolkata (India), the paper examines whether a psychological intervention to mitigate the adverse effects of internalized stigma can induce behavior change. The study findings show significant improvements in participants' self-image, their savings choices, and health clinic visits. Anandi shares  the potential of purely psychological interventions to improve the life choices and outcomes of marginalized groups.


Show Notes

Show Notes

Paper Discussed : Sex workers, Stigma and Self-Image: Evidence from Kolkata Brothels

Open access : here

Speaker Profile : 

                                 Guest Speaker

                                 Anandi Mani is Professor of Behavioural                                     Economics and Public Policy at the                                              Blavatnik School of Government. Her                                          research interests are in the area of                                              Development Economics, with a specific                                    focus on issues related to the                                                        behavioural economics of poverty and social exclusion, gender issues and public good provision. She is a Research Affiliate at Ideas42, a think tank for behavioural economics at Harvard University, and a Fellow at the Centre for Comparative Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) at the University of Warwick.


Avantika Prabhakar is a PhD in Economics

candidate at University of Virginia.

Previously she was a Research Manager

at J-PAL South Asia.  

Researchers mentioned

1. Dr. Smarajit Jana - Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC)

2. Devaki Jain 

3. Claudia Goldin - Harvard University

4. Claude Steele - Stanford University

5. Albert Bandura

Resources mentioned

1. Still I Rise - Maya Angelou (poem)

2. Durbar - An Organization of Sex Workers Fighting for Rights & Dignity

Episode art credit: istock photo

curse of mummyji.jpg
EPISODE  3 : Curse of the Mummyji - Influence of Mothers-in-law on Women in India

S. Anukriti, Research Economist at The World Bank unpacks the complexities of restrictive social norms and women’s social networks through her paper titled Curse of the Mummy-ji: the influence of Mothers-in-law on Women in India in an engaging conversation with Sakshi Hallan, a Research Analyst at The World Bank. 


Using primary data from Jaunpur district in rural Uttar Pradesh, the study characterises the social networks of young married women. Adopting an instrumental variables approach, the study then shows how co-residence with a mother-in-law affects the daughter-in-law’s access to family planning and reproductive health resources by imposing restrictions on the daughter-in-law’s ability to form social connections outside of her household.

“It could be that you have a very well-intentioned programme but it overlooks how the mother-in-law will either perceive that program or will prevent the daughter-in-law from accessing it or maybe she is actually going to be a supportive influence


Show Notes

Show Notes

Show Notes

Paper discussed: Curse of the Mummy-ji - The Influence of Mothers-in-Law on Women in India

Open access : here 

  Speaker Profile

                                S Anukriti is  is an Economist in the

                                Development Research Group (Human                                        Development Team) of the World Bank.                                      She is an applied micro-economist, with                                      interests in the fields of development                                          economics, economics of gender and the family, and political economy. Dr. Anukriti received her PhD in Economics from Columbia University, MA in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics, and BA (Honors) from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi.                                                     


Sakshi Hallan is a Research Analyst in the

Social Protection and Jobs Unit of the World Bank.

She has worked on projects in social protection,

agriculture, social inclusion, and financial inclusion

sectors. She has also worked as a LAMP Fellow at

PRS Legislative Research. She holds an MA in

International and Development Economics from

Yale University and a BA in Economics from Delhi University. 


Research Papers mentioned

(links have been added)

1. Bring a Friend: Strengthening Women’s Social Networks and Reproductive Autonomy in India 

(The baseline survey of this RCT serves as the data for this paper)
Mothers’ Social Networks and Socioeconomic Gradients of Isolation
3. Using Gossips to Spread Information: Theory and Evidence from Two Randomized Controlled Trials
4. Convincing the Mummy-ji: Improving Mother-in-Law Approval of Family Planning in India
5. Strategic Choices in Polygamous Households: Theory and Evidence from Senegal


Researchers mentioned

1. Professor J. V. Meenakshi, Delhi School of Economics 
2. Karla Hoff, Columbia University 
3. Rohini Pande,
Yale University 

Resources mnetioned

1. ASHA workers 
2. S Anukriti's ongoing research 
3. Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS)
4. Demographic and Health Survey (DHS)
5. National Family Health Survey (NFHS)


Episode art: Veena Venugopal's book cover - The Mother-in-Law (2014)

WhatsApp Image 2021-06-09 at 5.27_edited.jpg
EPISODE  4 : On Her Own Account - How Strengthening Women's Financial Control Affects Labor Supply and Gender Norms

Dr. Charity Troyer Moore, Director for South Asia Economics Research at Yale University’s MacMillan Center along with Shambhavi Sawhney, Data Associate at Good Business Lab revisit the seminal paper - On her Own Account: How Strengthening Women's Financial Control Affects Labour Supply and Gender Norms. Dr. Charity along with co-authors Dr. Rohini PandeDr. Simone Schaner and Dr. Natalia Rigol focused on answering whether greater control over earned income incentivises women to work and influence gender norms. 

Dr. Charity recounts her experience while working in Delhi and noticing how public spaces were dominated by men. She describes at length her experience of working with the government and the bureaucratic hurdles the research team faced. Given her extensive field research experience, she discusses how the nature of survey questions may incentivise respondents to withhold information, thereby affecting the quality of data collected.

Furthermore, she discusses how the solution to spousal discordance on key issues at the household level is access to economic opportunities for women which leads to more bargaining power for them.


Show Notes

Paper Discussed : On Her Own Account : How Strengthening Women's Financial Control Affects Labor Supply & Gender Norms 

Open access : here 

Speaker Profile

                               Charity Moore is Director for South Asia Economics                                 Research at Yale University’s MacMillan Center,                                         where she provides strategic direction and                                               oversight of research, policy and capacity building                                   engagements in India and other countries in South                                 Asia for a portfolio of work co-led with faculty at Yale University. 

Shambhavi  Swahney is a Data Associate at                                     Good Business Lab. Previously she worked as a                                      Research Associate at Inclusion Economics                                  (formerly EPoD India) and has worked on multiple                                    projects in rural Bihar, relating to NREGA and                                        financial inclusion women. She has an MPP from                             The Harris School of Public Policy, UChicago.

Research Papers mentioned

1.Preferences and Beliefs in the Marriage Market for Young Brides

2. Sharing the Pie: Undernutrition, Intra-household Allocation, and Poverty

3. Why are Fewer Married Women Joining the Work Force in India? A Decomposition Analysis Over Two Decades

4. Last Among Equals

Episode art: (HT Photo/Santosh Kumar)


Show Notes

EPISODE 5 : Sleepless In ... Chennai

Dr. Heather Schofield is an Assistant Professor in the Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School and Vasanthi Pillai, PhD researcher in the Professorship of Behavioral Science for Disease Prevention and Health Care at the Technical University of Munich discuss a range of research areas including sleep, Ramadan fasting and its impact on the economic production in agriculture, loneliness and cognitive endurance. She briefly also talks about the Behavioral Development Lab (BDL) at Chennai which she co-founded with two other researchers. BDL focuses on integrating behavioural economics and development economics to understand the causes and consequences of poverty

Dr. Heather also delves deeper into how she picks a research idea and the intermediary methods that ultimately lead to the fruition of a research project. She focuses on her paper - The Economic Consequences of Increasing Sleep Among the Urban Poor and how using actigraphy was central to tracking sleep patterns and motor movements among the respondents. 

She also discusses her study Ramadan Fasting and Agricultural Output” which studies overlaps between Ramadan and the labour-intensive portions of cropping cycles and provides a very interesting insight into the correlation between religiosity and growth. Given that this is a rather unexplored issue, religious influence is rarely analyzed when constructing/discussing labour policies.

In conclusion, Dr. Heather also provides extremely valuable advice that researchers should be mindful of while conducting research. 


Show Notes

Papers discussed:
1) The Economic Consequences of Increasing Sleep Among the Urban Poor
2) Ramadan Fasting and Agricultural Output

Dr. Heather Schofield is an Assistant
Professor in the Perelman School of Medicine
and The Wharton School at the University of
Pennsylvania. She is an economist studying
development, health, and behavioral
economics. Much of her research is based in
Dr. Schofield completed her Ph.D. in Business Economics, MS in Global Health and Population, and BA in Economics at Harvard University.
                                     Vasanthi Pillai is a PhD researcher in the                                           Professorship of Behavioral Science for                                             Disease Prevention and Health Care at the                                       Technical University of Munich. Her                                                   doctoral research will involve applying                                             behavioral economics to issues in global                                         health and disease prevention.

Researchers mentioned
Marianne Bertrand, University of Chicago
Claudia Goldin, Harvard University
Esther Duflo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rebecca Dizon-Ross, University of Chicago

Episode Art Credit : istock
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