Sonalde Desai (Sonal) 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 journals including the Economic and Political Weekly, American Sociological Review, Demography, Population and Development Review and Feminist Studies.  

      Sonal 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.

      Sonal is Professor of Sociology at University of Maryland College Park and also holds a joint appointment at the  National Council of Applied Economic Research in New Delhi. With colleagues Reeve Vanneman and Amaresh Dubey she has been leading India Human Development Survey, the only publicly available longitudinal survey of households in India. With two surveys in 2004-5 and 2011-12, a sample of over 40,000 households and rich data on different dimensions of social relations and economic development in India, the IHDS  provides a unique public resource. It has been extnesively used by Indian and international researchers for research studying 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 now used by over 9000 researchers worldwide. Further information is available at

        With new funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sonal is leading a consortium consisting of researchers from the National Council of Applied Economic Research, University of Maryland College Park and University of Michigan to establish a new National Data Innovation Centre at NCAER in New Delhi. 

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© Sonalde Desai 2012