Assistant Professor

About Anjali Adukia

Anjali Adukia is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the College. In her work, she is interested in understanding how to reduce inequalities such that children from historically disadvantaged backgrounds have equal opportunities to fully develop their potential. Her research is focused on understanding factors that motivate and shape behavior, preferences, attitudes, and educational decision-making, with a particular focus on early-life influences. She examines how the provision of basic needs—such as safety, health, justice, and representation—can increase school participation and improve child outcomes in developing contexts.

Adukia completed her doctoral degree at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, with an academic focus on the economics of education. Her work has been funded from organizations such as the William T. Grant Foundation, the National Academy of Education, and the Spencer Foundation.  Her dissertation won awards from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP), and the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES). Adukia received recognition for her teaching from the University of Chicago Feminist Forum.  She completed her masters of education degrees in international education policy and higher education (administration, planning, and social policy) from Harvard University and her bachelor of science degree in molecular and integrative physiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a faculty affiliate of the University of Chicago Education Lab and Crime Lab.  She was formerly a board member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network – San Francisco Bay Area. She continues to work with non-governmental organizations internationally, such as UNICEF and Manav Sadhna in Gujarat, India.

Professor Anjali Adukia is on leave Academic Year 2019-20.

Personal Website:

Twitter: @aadukia


“What We Teach About Race and Gender: Representation in Images and Text of Children’s Books”
(with A. EbleE. HarrisonH.B. RuneshaT. Szasz) (July 2021, NBER Working Paper 29123Becker Friedman Institute Working Paper 2021-44)
Books shape how children learn about society and social norms, in part through the representation of different characters. To better understand the messages children encounter in books, we introduce new machine-led methods for systematically converting images into data. We apply these image tools, along with established text analysis methods, to measure the representation of race, gender, and age in children’s books commonly found in US schools and homes over the last century. We find that books selected to highlight people of color, or females of all races, consistently depict characters with darker skin tones than characters in “mainstream” books, which depict lighter-skinned characters even after conditioning on perceived race. Across both sets of books, children are depicted with lighter skin than adults, despite no biological foundation for such a difference. Females are more represented in images than in text, suggesting greater symbolic inclusion in pictures than substantive inclusion in stories. Relative to their US population share, Black and Latinx people are underrepresented in the mainstream collection; males, particularly White males, are persistently overrepresented. Our data provide a view into the “black box” of education through children’s books in US schools and homes, highlighting what has changed and what has endured.   [Slides]         [Research Brief]         [Video]         [Interactive Figures]         [Press: School Library JournalWall Street Journal]

“Sanitation and Education” (April 2017, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics)
I explore whether the absence of school-sanitation infrastructure impedes educational attainment, particularly among pubescent-age girls, using a national Indian school latrine-construction initiative and administrative school-level data. School-latrine construction substantially increases enrollment of pubescent-age girls, though predominately when providing sex-specific latrines. Privacy and safety appear to matter sufficiently for pubescent-age girls that only sex-specific latrines reduce gender disparities. Any latrine substantially benefits younger girls and boys, who may be particularly vulnerable to sickness from uncontained waste. Academic test scores did not increase following latrine construction, however. Estimated increases in enrollment are similar across the substantial variation in Indian district characteristics.   [Slides]

“Educational Investment Responses to Economic Opportunity: Evidence from Indian Road Construction”
(with S. Asher and P. Novosad) (January 2020, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics)
The rural poor in developing countries, once economically isolated, are increasingly being connected to outside markets. Whether these new connections crowd out or encourage educational investment is a central question. We examine the impacts on educational choices of 115,000 new roads built under India’s flagship road construction program. We find that children stay in school longer and perform better on standardized exams. Treatment heterogeneity supports the predictions of a standard human capital investment model: enrollment increases are largest where nearby labor markets offer the highest returns to education and lowest where they imply high opportunity costs of schooling.   [Slides]

“Spillover Impacts on Education from Employment Guarantees” (Accepted, Education Finance and Policy)
Programs that guarantee some basic level of low-skill employment are a popular anti-poverty strategy in developing countries, with India’s employment-guarantee program (MGNREGA) annually employing adults in 23% of Indian households.  An important concern is these employment programs may discourage children’s education and, thus, more-sustained long-run income growth.  Using large-scale administrative data and household survey data, I estimate precise spillover impacts on education that reject substantive declines in children’s education from the rollout of MGNREGA.  These negative spillovers are inexpensive to counteract, and small compared to immediate effects of MGNREGA on rural employment and poverty alleviation.

“Religion and Sanitation Practices”
(with M. AlsanK. BabiarzJ. Goldhaber-Fiebert, and L. Prince)  (May 2021, World Bank Economic Review)
In India, infant mortality among Hindus is higher than among Muslims, and religious differences in sanitation practices have been cited as a contributing factor. To explore whether religion itself is associated with differences in sanitation practices, this study compares sanitation practices of Hindus and Muslims living in the same locations using three nationally representative data sets from India. Across all three data sets, the unconditional religion-specific gap in latrine ownership and latrine use declines by approximately two-thirds when conditioning on location characteristics or including location fixed effects. Further, the estimates do not show evidence of religion-specific differences in other sanitation practices, such as handwashing or observed fecal material near homes. Household sanitation practices vary substantially across areas of India, but religion itself has less direct influence when considering differences between Hindus and Muslims within the same location.

“Economic and Social Development along the Urban-Rural Continuum: New Opportunities to Inform Policy”
(with A. CattaneoD. BrownL. ChristiaensenD.K. EvansA. HaakenstadT. McMenomyM. PartridgeS. VazD. Weiss) (August 2021, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper WPS9756)
The economic and social development of nations relies on their population having physical access to services and employment opportunities. For the vast majority of the 3.4 billion people living in rural locations, this largely depends on their access to urban centers of different sizes. Similarly, urban centers depend on their rural hinterlands. Building on the literature on functional areas/territories and the rural-urban continuum as well as insights from central place theory, this review paper advances the notion of catchment areas differentiated along an urban-to-rural continuum to capture these urban-rural interconnections. It further shows how a new, publicly available data set operationalizing this concept can shed new light on policy making across a series of development fields, including institutions and governance, urbanization and food systems, welfare and poverty, and access to health and education services. Together the insights support a more geographically nuanced perspective on development.


Other Writings: Policy Briefs, Op-Eds, Blog Posts

India's National Education Policy: A need to look beyond the classroom to improve resultsVoxDev, 11/15/2019

How sanitation facilities in schools can improve educational outcomes, Ideas for India, 8/20/2018

Promoting Education through School SanitationWorld Bank Development Impact, 3/05/2014

"The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Tertiary Education World Wide" (with B. Long.) World Bank, September 2009.

"The Broadmoor Project New Orleans Community Engagement Initiative: Progress Report" (with D. Ahlers, M. Blakley, L. Cole, M. El Dahshan, A. Hodari, H. Ko, J. Maeso, A. Noble, D. Radcliffe, M. Richards, C. Valentine, A. Van, D. Walsh, A. Watson, A. Woods, C. Wood, J. Wright, K. Yang). Harvard Kennedy School - Broadmoor Initiative, March 2007.  


Honors, Awards

William T. Grant Scholar, 2018-23 (Harris coverage)

National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2018-19  

Feminist Forum Professor Award Honorable Mention (University of Chicago), 2018

Emerging Education Policy Scholar, American Enterprise Institute and Fordham Institute, 2017  

Recipient of 2015 Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Jean Flanigan Outstanding Dissertation Award  

Recipient of 2014 Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) Dissertation Award  

Recipient of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) South Asia Special Interest Group Dissertation Award: Honorable Mention  

News, Links

Representation Matters: Exploring the Role of Gender and Race on Educational Outcomes, Inside IES Research Interview by C. Chhin, 2/11/2021

With Sanitation, Education will be Possible, We Are Water Foundation, 12/18/2020

Why Toilets MatterHarvard Ed Magazine by L. Hough, 1/22/2018

Latrines and Learning (and related video by S. Galer), Featured Research by R. Mordfin, 6/22/2017

Building School Latrines in India to Increase Student Enrollment, Chicago Policy Review by N. Khadijah, 5/3/2017

India's Need for School Toilets, Pulitzer Center Global Health NOW by A. Schraufnagel, 2/15/2016

A Latrine of Their Own, Interviewed for Radio Harris by J. Smith

Exploring Solution's to India's Sanitation Crisis, myScience

Research featured on Poke Me, a weekly editorial post on The Economic Times by U. Goswami

That time a monkey almost stole critical dissertation data...  Video, Harvard Ed. Magazine ("Hey, Hey, It's a Monkey" by L. Hough, Winter 2011), Chronicle of Higher Education and here, Harvard Crimson


University of Chicago and Harris Informational Videos: 

Meet Our Faculty: Anjali Adukia

Future of Harris: Overall and Anjali Adukia Spotlight

Obama Foundation Scholars Program

Harris School of Public Policy Evening Master's Program