Sonia Bhalotra is Professor of Economics at the University of Essex. She is currently Co-Investigator on two large grants (£5m across five years). She is Co-Director of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change at the Institute of Social and Economic Research. She is also Co-Investigator on the ESRC-funded Project on Human Rights, Big Data and Technology at the Human Rights Centre in the Law Department. In addition she currently holds three British Academy awards, two International Growth Centre Awards and an ESRC SDAI grant. She recently held a large research award from Grand Challenges Canada in a consortium on Early Life Risk Factors with UPenn and CDDEP/PHFI.

She is a CROP research fellow (Bergen), Research Fellow at SFI Denmark, Visiting Professor at the University of Essen-Duisburg and at the University of Gothenburg, on the Advisory Boards (inaugural member) of Academics Stand Against Poverty (Yale), the Goettingen India Centre and the UEA Development Centre, and on the British Academy Area Panel for South Asia. She has served on the Council of the European Society of Population Economics, on a Scientific Committee at the World Health Organization, on several ESRC committees and on the International Review Panel of the Danish and Swedish Research Councils. She was recently an invited panelist on a British Academy debate on global inequalities, emphasising gender inequalities.

Sonia is interested in the creation of human capital and the long benefits of early life health interventions; public health including maternal depression, maternal mortality, domestic violence, childhood mortality; gender inequality; the political economy of public service provision; intergenerational mobility and the dynamics of mortality, fertility and sex selection. She has used micro-macro data from Asia, Africa and Latin America and historical data from America and the Scandinavian countries.

She has provided policy inputs at UNESCO, WHO, the World Bank, ILO, UNICEF, UNU/WIDER and the Hewlett Foundation. Sonia obtained an MPhil and PhD from Oxford and a BSc Hons. from Delhi. Prior to joining Essex, Sonia was a Professor at the University of Bristol.



IZA Discussion Paper No. 11292

Leveraging close elections to generate quasi-random variation in the religious identity of state legislators in India, we find lower rates of female foeticide in districts with Muslim legislators, which we argue reflects a greater (religious) aversion to abortion among Muslims. These districts exhibit increases in fertility that offset the decrease...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 11274

We examine the impact of business cycle variation on intimate partner violence using representative data from thirty one developing countries, through 2005 to 2016. We distinguish male from female unemployment rates, identifying the influence of each conditional upon the other. We find that a one percent increase in the male...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 11239
Sonia R. Bhalotra, Rachel Brulé, Sanchari Roy

We investigate whether legislation of equal inheritance rights for women modifies the historic preference for sons in India, and find that it exacerbates it. Children born after the reform in families with a first-born daughter are 3.8–4.3 percentage points less likely to be girls, indicating that the reform encouraged female...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 11187

We evaluate the long-term impact of treating maternal depression on women’s financial empowerment and parenting decisions. We leverage experimental variation induced by a cluster-randomized control trial that provided psychotherapy to perinatally depressed mothers in rural Pakistan. It was one the largest psychotherapy interventions in the world, and the treatment was...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10938
Submitted. Revision Nov 2017, available from the authors.

We analyze long-term impacts of the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War, providing the first evidence of intergenerational impacts. Women exposed to the war in their growing years exhibit reduced adult stature, increased likelihood of being overweight, earlier age at first birth, and lower educational attainment. Exposure to a primary education program...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10618
Submitted. Also available as NBER WP 23239.

Historically, improvements in the quality of municipal drinking water made important contributions to mortality decline in wealthy countries. However, water disinfection often does not produce equivalent benefits in developing countries today. We investigate this puzzle by analyzing an abrupt, large-scale municipal water disinfection program in Mexico in 1991 that increased...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10405
R&R at Review of Economics and Statistics. Revised version available from the authors.

Twin births are often construed as a natural experiment in the social and natural sciences on the premise that the occurrence of twins is quasi-random. We present new population-level evidence that challenges this premise. Using individual data for more than 18 million births (more than 500,000 of which are twins)...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10339
Revised version available from the authors.

We estimate impacts of exposure to an infant health intervention trialled in Sweden in the early 1930s using purposively digitised birth registers linked to school catalogues, census files and tax records to generate longitudinal microdata that track individuals through five stages of the life-course, from birth to age 71. This...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10271
Submitted. Revised version here (Nov 2017):

The introduction of prenatal sex-detection technologies in India has led to a phenomenal increase in abortion of female fetuses. We investigate their impact on son-biased fertility stopping behavior, parental investments in girls relative to boys, and the relative chances of girls surviving after birth. We find a moderation of son-biased...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 9930
R&R: American Economic Journal: Applied Economics

While land reforms are typically pursued in order to raise productivity and reduce inequality across households, an unintended consequence may be increased within-household gender inequality. We analyse a tenancy registration programme in West Bengal, and find that it increased child survival and reduced fertility. However, we also find that it...