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Bina Agarwal
Bina Agarwal, 2012 (cropped).jpg
Bina Agarwal in 2012.
FieldDevelopment economics[1]
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (B.A., M.A.)
University of Delhi (Ph.D.)
AwardsAnanda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize 1996, Edgar Graham Book Prize 1996, The K. H. Batheja Award 1995–96, Leontief Prize 2010

Bina Agarwal is an Indian development economist and Professor of Development Economics and Environment at the Global Development Institute at The University of Manchester. She has written extensively on land, livelihoods and property rights; environment and development; the political economy of gender; poverty and inequality; legal change; and agriculture and technological transformation. Among her best known works is the award-winning book—A Field of One's Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia—which has had a significant impact on governments, NGOs, and international agencies in promoting women's rights in land and property.[2] This work has also inspired research in Latin America and globally.[3]

Early life

Agarwal's parents were Suraj Mal and Shyama Devi Agarwal, Agarwal named a book prize in their honour.[4] She earned her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Cambridge, and her doctorate in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, her dissertation was Mechanization in Indian Agriculture: An Analytical Study Based on the Punjab.[5]


Her university positions include posts at Princeton, Harvard, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York University. At Harvard she was the first Daniel Ingalls Visiting Professor[6] Agarwal has also been President of the International Society for Ecological Economics.[7] Vice-President of the International Economic Association,[6] President of the International Association for Feminist Economics,[8] on the Board of the Global Development Network, and one of the twenty-one members of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, chaired by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.[9] She has served on the UN Committee for Development Policy (New York) and UNRISD (Geneva). She holds honorary doctorates from the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands and the University of Antwerp in Belgium.[6]

Concepts and areas of focus

Agarwal's expertise is on subjects related to rural economy. She has creatively used diverse methodologies (from econometric analysis to qualitative assessments) and an interdisciplinary approach, to provide insights on land, livelihoods and property rights; environment and development; the political economy of gender; poverty and inequality; law; and agriculture and technological change. She deals especially with the connectedness of gender inequality, social exclusion, property, and development. Her pioneering work has had an impact globally both within the academia and among policy makers and practitioners. A large part of her work compares countries, especially within South Asia. In A Field of One's Own (Cambridge University Press, 1994), her most famous work, Agarwal stresses that "the single most important factor affecting women's situation is the gender gap in command over property."[10] She is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy.[11]

Spurred on by Agarwal's work, and the successful movement she led in 2004–2005, Indian policy makers passed the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act in 2005. This Act gives all Hindu women (married and unmarried) equal rights with men in the ownership and inheritance of property, in particular agricultural land.[12]

Agarwal has consistently challenged standard economic analysis and assumptions. In her writings on the "bargaining approach" to intra-family relations, she challenges unitary household models and extends formal bargaining models to highlight the importance of social norms, social perceptions and property ownership in determining women's bargaining power. She also demonstrates the interconnectedness of the family, the community, the market and the state in determining a person's bargaining power in any one sphere. Her paper "Bargaining and Gender Relations" is the single most downloaded paper to date in the journal Feminist Economics.[13] In another article "Bargaining and Legal Change", Agarwal examines how women in India were able to bargain with the State to pass the inheritance laws of 1956 and bring about its amendment in 2005.[14]

In another important extension of her work on gender, property and power, Agarwal demonstrates in her empirically rigours article "Towards Freedom from Domestic Violence", that women's ability to own and inherit land acts as a significant deterrent against marital violence. Her recent books include: Psychology, Rationality and Economic Behaviour (coedited; Palgrave, 2005),[15] Capabilities, Freedom and Equality (co-edited, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2006).[16] Her most recently authored book is Gender and Green Governance (Oxford University Press, Oxford and Delhi, 2010) which has been widely cited and favourably reviewed in both academic journals and the popular press (EPW and Indian Express).[17]

Positions and awards

Bina Agarwal has held distinguished positions at many international universities, including Harvard (she was the first Daniel Ingalls Visiting Professor), the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), the University of Minnesota (where she held the Winton Chair), and the New York University School of Law. In 2006–07, Agarwal was also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. In addition, she has been Vice-President of the International Economic Association, President of the International Association for Feminist Economics,[18] and on the board of the Global Development Network. Agarwal is a founding member of the Indian Society for Ecological economics. She is one of only two women who served on the Commission for the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, chaired by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and set up by President Sarkozy. She has also been consultant to the Planning Commission of India and is on the editorial boards of several international academic journals.

In 2009 Agarwal was nominated to the board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) – such nominations are approved by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). On 29 March 2010 the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) awarded her the 2010 Leontief Prize – an annual award named after Nobel Laureate Wassily Leontief. GDAE Co-Director Neva Goodwin wrote: "Bina Agarwal embodies the kind of theoretically rigorous, empirically grounded, and policy-oriented economics that the Leontief Prize was created to recognize," and "Her contributions to both scholarship and policy on economic development, the environment, well-being, and gender have been an inspiration to GDAE for many years." She is the currently president-elect of the International Society for Ecological Economics. She also heads a "Working Group on Disadvantaged Farmers, including Women" for India's 12th Five Year Plan, and is on the Indian Prime Minister's Panel on Land Reform. Additionally, Agarwal is on the advisory board for Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP).

In 2017, she received the Balzan Prize for Gender Studies[19] in recognition of her work in studying women's contribution to agriculture in India.[20]

Additional honours

Selected works


Chapters in books


See also


  1. ^ "Enotes page on Bina Agarwal"[dead link]
  2. ^ Agarwal, Bina (1994). A field of one's own: gender and land rights in South Asia. Cambridge England New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521429269.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Notes on contributors". Feminist Economics. 9 (2–3): 333–335. 2003. doi:10.1080/1354570032000114554. S2CID 216645024.
  4. ^ Staff writer (9 November 2017). "SEED's Bina Agarwal launches book prize". Archived from the original on 23 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  5. ^ Agarwal, Bina (1977). Mechanization in Indian agriculture: an analytical study based on the Punjab (PhD thesis). Delhi University. OCLC 180477015.
  6. ^ a b c "Bina Agarwal". World Resources Forum. Archived from the original on 7 October 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  7. ^ "About". International Society for Ecological Economics. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  8. ^ "Board Members". International Association for Feminist Economics. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  9. ^ Stiglitz, Joseph; Sen, Amartya; Fitoussi, Jean-Paul. "Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress" (PDF). Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  10. ^ Agarwal, Bina (1994). A field of one's own: gender and land rights in South Asia. Cambridge England New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. p. 576. ISBN 9780521429269.
  11. ^ "Journal of Women, Politics & Policy – Editorial board". Taylor and Francis. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Lincei, all'indiana Bina Agarwal il distintivo di accademico". Askanews (News article) (in Italian). Rome, Italy. 14 November 2016."Nel 2005 - ha raccontato Bina Agarwal - ho guidato una campagna per modificare la legge di successione in modo da consentire in India l'ereditarietà della terra anche alle donne. Dopo 9 mesi di battaglia, la modifica è passata e oggi la legge sull'ereditarietà è completamente paritaria, uomini e donne hanno gli stessi diritti di proprietà. E questo riguarda l'80% delle donne in India.
  13. ^ Agarwal, Bina (1997). ""Bargaining" and gender relations: within and beyond the household". Feminist Economics. 3 (1): 1–51. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/135457097338799. Pdf. Archived 27 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Agarwal, Bina (October 2002). Bargaining and legal change: toward gender equality in India's inheritance laws (PDF). IDS Working Paper 165. Brighton, England: Institute of Development Studies.
  15. ^ Agarwal, Bina; Vercelli, Alessandro (2005). Psychology, rationality, and economic behaviour: challenging standard assumptions. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire New York: Palgrave Macmillan in association with International Economic Association. ISBN 9781403942531.
  16. ^ Agarwal, Bina (2007). Capabilities, freedom, and equality: Amartya Sen's work from a gender perspective. New Delhi New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195692372.
  17. ^ Agarwal, Bina (2010). Gender and green governance: the political economy of women's presence within and beyond community forestry. Oxford England New York USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191614309.
  18. ^ "International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) – Board members". University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  19. ^ "For challenging established premises in economics and the social sciences by using an innovative gender perspective; for enhancing the visibility and empowerment of rural women in the Global South; for opening new intellectual and political pathways in key areas of gender and development". (Motivation of the Balzan General Prize Committee)
  20. ^ AP (12 September 2017). "Indian economist wins prestigious Balzan Prize, US scientists among awardees". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  21. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  1. Agarwal, Bina and Panda Pradeep (9/7/2003) "Home and the World: Revisiting Violence" in The Indian Express
  2. Agarwal, Bina (25 September 2005) “Landmark Step to Gender Equality” in The Hindu
Non-profit organisation positions Preceded byLourdes Benería President of the International Association for Feminist Economics 2004–2005 Succeeded byRobin Bartlett