Ashlesha Datar

Photo of Ashlesha Datar
Adjunct Economist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in policy analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; M.A. in economics, Delhi School of Economics

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Ashlesha Datar is an adjunct economist at the RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research focuses on the role of school, neighborhood, and other contextual factors in determining children's health and educational outcomes, with a special focus on childhood obesity. In her current research, Datar is studying the factors explaining the emergence of socioeconomic disparities in childhood obesity. She is also leading a large NIH-funded study to examine how food and physical activity environments influence diet, activity behaviors, and obesity among military children. She is the recipient of several grants from federal agencies and private foundations, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her research has been published in leading health, education, and policy journals. Datar received an M.A. in economics from the Delhi School of Economics and a Ph.D. in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Recent Projects

  • Impact of Air Pollution on Children's Cognitive and Health Outcomes
  • School Food Environment and Child Well-Being
  • Environment and Neighborhood Safety Impacts on Children's Diet, Activity and Obesity
  • Economics of Natural Disasters
  • Birthweight Effects in Infancy and Early Childhood

Selected Publications

A. Datar and N. Nicosia, "Outsourcing Meals: Impacts of Maternal Employment on Children's School Meal Participation," Social Service Review (forthcoming)

A. Datar, V Shier, and R. Sturm, "Changes in Body Mass During Elementary and Middle School in a Nationally Representative Cohort of Kindergartners," Pediatrics, 2011

A. Datar, M.R. Kilburn, and D. Loughran, "Endowments and Parental Investments in Infancy and Early Childhood," Demography, 47(1):145-62, 2010

A. Datar and N. Nicosia, "Junk Food in Schools and Childhood Obesity," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2009

A. Datar and B. Mason, "Do Reductions in Class Size Crowd Out Parental Investments in Education?" Economics of Education Review, 27:712-723, 2008

A. Datar and R. Sturm, "Food Prices and Weight Gain During Elementary School Children: 5-Year Update," Public Health, 122:1140-43, 2008

A. Datar, "The Impact of Kindergarten Entrance Age Policies on the Child Care Needs of Families," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 25(1):129-151, 2006

R. Sturm and A. Datar, "Body Mass Index in Elementary School Children, Metropolitan Area Food Prices and Food Outlet Density," Public Health, 2005



Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Associated Press; CNN; Consumers Digest; Los Angeles Times; Reuters; Washington Post; WebMD