Shanthi Nataraj

Photo of Shanthi Nataraj
Director, Labor and Workforce Development Program; Senior Economist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics, University of California, Berkeley; B.S. in environmental engineering, Northwestern University

Media Resources

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Shanthi Nataraj is director, Labor and Workforce Development Program, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research interests include economic development, labor markets, workforce development, and firm growth.

She recently completed a study examining the integration of Syrian refugees into labor markets in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, which includes primary data collection through firm and household surveys as well as focus groups with host nationals and refugees. She also co-led two studies examining informal labor markets in Bangladesh, as well as a study of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on employment and output in the Gulf States fisheries and tourism industries.

In the area of workforce economics, her recent work includes the development of supply projections for Army and Department of Defense civilian personnel, and an analysis of retention among active duty mental health professionals. She has also examined the effects of trade and industrial policies on employment and productivity growth

Nataraj received her Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Previous Positions

Associate Director, Personnel, Training and Health Program, RAND Arroyo Center

Recent Projects

  • Mutually Beneficial Opportunities for Syrians and Host Countries in Middle Eastern Labor Markets
  • Informal labor markets in Bangladesh
  • Workforce management for Department of Defense, Army civilians
  • Impact of Deepwater Horizon spill on fisheries, tourism industries in the Gulf states
  • Drivers of productivity and employment growth among small firms

Selected Publications

Minhaj Mahmud, Italo Gutierrez, Krishna Kumar, and Shanthi Nataraj, "What Aspects of Formality Do Workers Value? Evidence from a Choice Experiment in Bangladesh," The World Bank Economic Review (forthcoming)

Krishna Kumar, Minhaj Mahmud, Shanthi Nataraj, and Yoonyoung Cho, "Employer and Employee Preferences for Worker Benefits: Evidence from a Matched Survey on the Bangladesh Informal Sector," IZA Discussion Paper No. 12064, 2019

Italo Gutierrez, Krishna Kumar, Minhaj Mahmud, Farzana Munshi, and Shanthi Nataraj, "Transitions Between Informal and Formal Employment: Results from a Worker Survey in Bangladesh," IZA Journal of Development and Migration (forthcoming)

Jeffrey Allen, Shanthi Nataraj, and Tyler Schipper, "Strict Duality and Overlapping Productivity Distributions between Formal and Informal Firms," Journal of Development Economics, 135, 2018

Leslie Martin, Shanthi Nataraj, and Ann Harrison, "In with the Big, Out with the Small: Removing Small-Scale Reservations in India," American Economic Review, 107(2), 2017

Shanthi Nataraj, Francisco Perez-Arce, Sinduja Srinivasan, and Krishna B. Kumar, "The Impact of Labor Market Regulation on Employment in Low-Income Countries: A Meta-Analysis," Journal of Economic Surveys, 28(3), 2014

Ann Harrison, Leslie Martin and Shanthi Nataraj, "Learning Versus Stealing: How Important are Market-Share Reallocations to India's Productivity Growth?" World Bank Economic Review, 27(2), 2013

Shanthi Nataraj, "The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Productivity: Evidence from India's Formal and Informal Manufacturing Sectors," Journal of International Economics, 85, 2011


  • Um Akram, a Syrian refugee, creates soap under Jasmine, a project which hires and trains Syrian refugee women to create handicrafts, in Amman, Jordan, July 11, 2016

    As Refugees, Syrian Women Find Liberation in Working

    Syrian refugee women in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan want opportunities to work. But there are multiple barriers and challenges that limit them. Improving the chances of safe and dignified work opportunities for Syrian women in these countries could yield broad positive social benefits for both the refugee and host communities.

    Feb 19, 2019 United Press International

  • Workers in a textile factory in Turkey

    Syrian Skills: A Missed Opportunity

    Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon are finding ways to get by. But many refugees are not able to fully use their skills, and that is a lost opportunity both for the Syrians and the host countries.

    Feb 14, 2019 RealClearWorld

  • A laborer lifts a basket of crushed bricks at a construction site in Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 22, 2014

    Informality and Formality: Two Ends of the Employment Continuum

    The staying power of informal employment in developing countries is a concern, because informal employees (e.g., day laborers) tend to receive lower wages, fewer benefits, and fewer legal protections. How can policymakers improve conditions for informal workers?

    Jan 22, 2016 The World Bank Jobs and Development Blog