Padma Desai
Born (1931-10-12) October 12, 1931 (age 90)
Surat, Gujarat, India
OccupationGladys and Roland Harriman Professor of comparative economic systems, Columbia University (1992–present)
Spouse(s)Jagdish Bhagwati

Padma Desai (born October 12, 1931) is an India-born, naturalized American, development economist and a Russia-specialist. She is the Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor Emerita of comparative economic systems and has been the director of the Center for Transition Economies at the Columbia University.[1]

She was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2009.[2]

Early life and education

Desai was born and brought up in a traditional Gujarati Anavil Brahmin family in Surat, Gujarat.

She did her B.A. (Economics) in 1951 from the University of Mumbai, followed by an M.A. (Economics) also from the same university in 1953. Thereafter she completed her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1960.[3]


Desai started her career at the Department of Economics, Harvard (1957-1959), after which she was associate professor of economics at Delhi School of Economics at University of Delhi, from 1959 to 1968.[3]

In November 1992, she joined as the Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems at Columbia University and went on to become the director of the Center for Transition Economies at the University.[3]

She later remained the U.S. Treasury’s advisor to the Russian Finance Ministry in the summer of 1995. She was president of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies in 2001.

She published her memoir, Breaking Out: An Indian Woman's American Journey in 2012.[4]

Personal life

She is married to Jagdish Bhagwati, also an Indian-American economist and professor of economics and law at Columbia University; the couple have one daughter.



  1. ^ "Padma Desai". Department of Economics, Columbia University.
  2. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954-2009)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-10.
  3. ^ a b c "Curriculum Vitae of Padma Desai" (PDF). Columbia University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-25.
  4. ^ "Random truths in common things". Business Line. May 4, 2012.