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Seema Jayachandran

Breen Family Professor of Economics

PhD, Economics, Harvard University, 2004

Economist Seema Jayachandran focuses on gender equality and environmental conservation in developing countries. She also conducts research on health, labor markets, early childhood education, and political economy.

Jayachandran is co-director of the Development Economics program at the National Bureau of Economic Research and also chairs the gender sector and serves on the board of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She is a co-editor of American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. She is a recipient of an Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation and a Sloan Research Fellowship. Prior to joining Northwestern, she was a faculty member at Stanford University.

Current Research

Changing Adolescents’ Gender Attitudes in India. Jayachandran, in a joint project with scholars Diva Dhar of the Gates Foundation and Tarun Jain of the Indian School of Business, as well as a human rights nonprofit and the state government of Haryana, India, is assessing a program in schools aimed at eliminating adolescents’ gender-discriminatory attitudes. The study is a randomized trial taking place in 314 government secondary schools in Haryana, which has one of the most skewed sex ratios in the world. Half of the schools in the study were randomly chosen to receive the attitude-change intervention in which the nonprofit’s staff members led classroom discussions about gender equality over two school years. The hypothesis is that by getting adolescents to think about and discuss the human rights and economic rationales for treating girls and women equally to boys and men, the intervention will make their attitudes less gender-biased and, in turn, change their behavior. The preliminary results indicate that the intervention successfully changed attitudes and behavior, with persistent effects. When the participants are adults, the researchers will assess whether the program increased female educational attainment, decreased sex-selective abortions, and so forth.

The Effect of Home Heating Prices on Health. Jayachandran, in a joint project with former Northwestern economics department graduate students Janjala Chirakijja and Pinchuan Ong, is examining the effect of home heating prices on health in the United States. Many families spend a large share of their income on home heating. Higher home heating prices exacerbate this financial burden and could be harmful to health. When the price rises, families will use less heating, and exposure to cold has been linked to cardiovascular failure, respiratory infections, and other health problems, and is a hypothesized contributor to the pattern of “excess winter mortality.” Heating prices could also affect health if high energy bills cause families to cut back on food or health care spending. This project examines mortality using U.S. death records.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Jayachandran, S., J. Cunha, and G. De Giorgi. 2019. The price effects of cash versus in-kind transfers. Review of Economic Studies 86(1):240-81.

Jayachandran, S., J. Bie, E. Malesky, and B. Olken. 2019. Firm growth and corruption: Empirical evidence from Vietnam. Economic Journal 129(618):651-77.

Jayachandran, S., J. De Laat, E. Lambin, C. Stanton, R. Audy, and N. Thomas. 2017. Cash for carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestationScience 356(6348): 267–73.

Jayachandran, S., and R. Pande. 2017. Why are Indian children so short? The role of birth order and son preferenceAmerican Economic Review 107(9): 2600–29.

Jayachandran, S. 2017. Fertility decline and missing womenAmerican Economic Journal: Applied Economics 9(1): 118–39.

Field, E., S. Jayachandran, R. Pande, and N. Rigol. 2016. Friendship at work: Can peer support catalyze female entrepreneurship? American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 8(2): 125-153.

Jayachandran, S. 2015. The roots of gender inequality in developing countriesAnnual Review of Economics 7: 63-88.

Jayachandran, S., and I. Kuziemko. 2011. Why do mothers breastfeed girls less than boys? Evidence and implications for child health in IndiaQuarterly Journal of Economics 126(3): 1485-1538.

Jayachandran, S., A. Lleras-Muney, and K. Smith. 2010. Modern medicine and the 20th-century decline in mortality: Evidence on the impact of sulfa drugsAmerican Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2(2): 118-148.

Jayachandran, S., and A. Lleras-Muney. 2009. Life expectancy and human capital investments: Evidence from maternal mortality declinesQuarterly Journal of Economics 124(1): 349-397.