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 demographic 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.

      Sonalde Desai and Reeve Vanneman, in collaboration with researchers from  National Council of Applied Economic Research in New Delhi, have just completed a multi-sectoral survey of 41,554 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

        With new funding from the National Institutes of Health and The Ford Foundation, the next round of IHDS, currently in the field revisits these households to examine the gains and losses experienced by different strata of the Indian society during an era of rapid economic growth. IHDS-2 also contains a special module on youths aged 15-18 to examine the processes affecting transition to adulthood in India. Experiences from this fieldwork are chronicled in the blog section of this site.

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© Sonalde Desai 2012