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
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