Spotlight on Faculty: Nayana Bose, Assistant Professor of Economics

Nayana Bose

This fall, 11 new tenure-track faculty members joined Scripps College, including two at the W.M. Keck Science Department. As part of our ongoing series on Scripps’ faculty, the Office of Marketing and Communications recently sat down with Nayana Bose, who joins the College as assistant professor of economics.

Bose earned her BSc in economics from the University of Calcutta in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, and her MA in economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India. She received her PhD from Vanderbilt University in 2015. Her fields are development economics, labor economics, and applied econometrics. She is primarily interested in studying the economic situation of individuals in low-income countries and analyzing the effect of public policy on economic development by concentrating on poverty, gender, labor market outcomes, and intra-household resource allocation.

Scripps College: Your graduate school research and dissertation allowed you to trace the impact of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) from 2009 to now, which has provided impoverished families with 100 days of wages, annually, in unskilled manual labor jobs where access to agricultural employment is limited. Despite some difficulties with its administration, the program is said to have benefitted people, which your data shows is true – can you elaborate?

Nayana Bose: For my dissertation, I assessed the impact of the public works program NREGA, which is currently one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the world. Like most ambitious programs in developing countries, NREGA faced a lot of problems in terms of implementation and access. I specifically studied the effect of NREGA on household wellbeing by looking at what happened to household consumption and intra-household budget allocation decisions. I found that the program increases consumption by around 10 percent. For the marginalized caste group, the program increased consumption by around 12 percent. So, historical and ongoing discrimination have not prevented minority caste groups from benefiting from the program. Interestingly, I find that for households with children, there was significantly greater spending on “child goods” like milk, while in households without children, spending on “male goods” like alcohol, increased.

SC: Your analysis of national sample survey data also led you to discoveries of what happens when women in India are able to inherit ancestral property, a practice that was prohibited by Indian law until 2005. What does happen when you give women in India more control over assets?

NB: I am very excited about this project because it is so important to understand how greater access to property rights not only impacts a woman’s economic and social opportunities but also her children’s wellbeing. Women who have greater formal control over household assets tend to have greater bargaining power in their families and communities. So, women with property rights, on average, face less domestic abuse, are able to gain more financial independence by participating in the labor force, and have used their formal claim to assets to take out loans. Also, with greater bargaining power, we see that women tend to exercise this power to improve their children’s welfare through greater spending on education and health. Currently, I am working on a paper to see whether property rights impact women’s fertility decisions; that is, do women with more power tend to have fewer children so that they can ensure a better quality of life for their children?

SC: Your primary and secondary education in an all-girls setting as a young woman growing up in India has interesting parallels and insights, perhaps, for the young women who are experiencing such an environment at Scripps. What would you share?

NB: I always enjoyed math in school, and I was good at it. Being at an all-girls school automatically meant I never had to question my ability or interest in math because of gender. So, once I was in college, I felt very comfortable competing with boys in my class. In fact, it seems very foreign to me to think I might be worse than men at a subject just because I am a woman. I feel very privileged to have had such an empowering experience since women’s empowerment is a big, big issue in both developing and developed countries.

SC: Is there a fact about yourself that is surprising, or that people don’t know about, that you’d like to share?

NB: I enjoy murder mysteries, and I am absolutely fascinated by the mafia! I also love the Netflix series House of Cards! It’s wonderfully evil.