Vijayendra (Biju) Rao, a Lead Economist in the Development Economics Research Group of the World Bank, works at the intersection of scholarship and practice. He integrates his training in economics with theories and methods from anthropology, 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. It does this – first – by improving the quality of civic action by strengthening forums for deliberation and developing tools to facilitate collective action, and – second – by building the “adaptive capacity” of large-scale anti-poverty projects; 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, published in The American Economic Review, The Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of Development Economics, European Economic Review, World Development and other journals, 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, community development, and deliberative democracy. He and Ghazala Mansuri co-authored Localizing Development: Does Participation Work? which the Nobel Laureate Roger Myerson has described as “one of the most important books in development in recent years.” He has co-edited Culture and Public Action, History, Historians and Development Policy, and, most recently, Deliberation and Development.
Dr. Rao obtained a BA in Economics from St. Xavier’s College, Bombay University, a PhD in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, was a Hewlett post-doctoral fellow at the Economics Research Center and an Associate of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, and has been a Mellon Fellow at Population Studies Centers at the University of Michigan and Brown University. He was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Williams College before joining the World Bank’s Research Department in 1999. He has served on the editorial boards of Economic Development and Cultural Change , Journal of Development Studies, The World Bank Economic Review, and World Development. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Successful Societies Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).