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New faculty profile: Priya Mukherjee specializes in development economics

Priya Mukherjee joined the UW–Madison faculty in August 2020 as an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

What is your hometown? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Wellington (in southern India) and grew up in New Delhi.

What is your educational/professional background, including your previous position?
I received my bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Delhi University, and a master’s degree in economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I received my PhD in economics at Cornell University, and was an assistant professor at William & Mary before coming here.

How did you get into your field of research?
I’m a development economist, interested in education, health, and governance. I worked for an education NGO in urban slums in Delhi while I was a math major in college, and realized I wanted to work in the area of economic development. It was only after I started my master’s degree in economics that I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in research.

What are the main goals of your current research program?
My research aims to answer the question of how to best deliver education and health services through the market or through government, and how voters respond to policies and hold governments accountable.

What attracted you to UW–Madison?
The vibrant research and teaching community, and my new colleagues and PhD students in the agricultural and applied economics department, many of whom work on research topics that are very close to mine.

What was your first visit to campus like?
It was quite fun because my visit was during Halloween, so the city was really festive, and I got to try one of the incredible Halloween special menus at a local restaurant!

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
The curiosity and interest to learn even more about development and policy issues around the world.

Do you share your expertise and experiences with the public through social media? If so, which channels do you use?
You can find me on Twitter as @p_mukherj.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
As a development economist, I apply tools from economics to health, education, and governance challenges, and while my focus is on low income countries, students who take my classes would be able to apply the same ideas in the context of Wisconsin as well.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?
I conducted a field experiment to study the role of prices in the market for after school tutoring in Delhi’s slums, and found that a higher willingness to pay was associated with higher attendance in tutoring classes. The price itself has a large, negative causal impact on attendance and dropout, suggesting that subsidies may be needed to encourage continued attendance.

What are your hobbies and other interests?
I’m addicted to yoga, and have many (many!) other interests, including traveling, trying new cuisines, painting, and reading.