Sonalde Desai


Sonalde Desai is a demographer whose work deals primarily with social inequalities in developing countries with a particular focus on gender and class inequalities. She studies inequalities in education, employment and maternal and child health outcomes by locating them within the political economy of the region. While much of her research focuses on South Asia, she has also engaged in comparative studies across Asia, Latin America and Sub Saharan Africa. She has published articles in a wide range of sociological and demographic journals including American Sociological Review, Demography, Population and Development Review and Feminist Studies. Professor Desai is currently examining changes in the nature and composition of Indian middle classes in the context of India’s movement from state-capitalism to market-capitalism and increasing involvement in the global economy. Sonalde Desai and Reeve Vanneman, in collaboration with National Council of Applied Economic Research in New Delhi, have just completed a multi-sectoral survey of 40,000 households across India which provides a rich resource for research on the relationship between poverty, gender inequality and public policy on the one hand and different dimensions of human development on the other. Ongoing studies based on these data include intersection between caste and gender in India; changing nature of social stratification and caste inequalities; role of affirmative action in shaping education inequalities in India; gender inequalities in access to health services; and, the role of social capital in shaping access to opportunities. This survey, titled India Human Development Survey, was funded by the National Institutes of Health. These data are publicly available to all researchers. Further information is available at
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  • PhD Ph.D. , Sociology, Stanford University
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Current Students
Former Students
  • Maitreyi Das
    Lead Social Development Socialist, The World Bank
  • Gheda Temsah
    Research & Evaluation Specialist in International Population, Health and Development at ICF Internat
  • Sonya Rastogi
    Senior Demographer, Center for Administrative Records Research and Applications
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  • Sonalde Desai
3119 Art/Sociology Building
Department of Psychology
Phone: (301) 405-6312