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.

In the area of economic development, she recently co-led two studies examining informal labor markets in Bangladesh. Her prior research also includes a study on fostering technological innovation and planning for the Guangzhou Development District in China; the calculation of Gross Regional Product for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq; ongoing analyses of the effects of India’s trade liberalization, industrial licensing, and foreign direct investment (FDI) reforms on the productivity and growth of manufacturing firms; an examination of policies to encourage regional development in Indonesia; and an analysis of the impacts of labor regulations on employment in low-income countries. 

Nataraj's work on labor markets and workforce development also extends to the United States, where she has co-led a series of studies examining talent management among Army civil service employees. She has also developed projections of the future supply of Army and Department of Defense civilian personnel, studied how expectations about labor market conditions affect retention among Army officers, and examined the stay-or-leave decisions of mental health professionals in the military.

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

Recent Projects

  • Informal labor markets in Bangladesh
  • Workforce management for Department of Defense, Army civilians
  • Productivity and employment growth among Indian manufacturing firms
  • Drivers of innovation in high-tech clusters
  • Calculation of gross regional product for Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Selected Publications

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

Minhaj Mahmud, Italo Gutierrez, Krishna Kumar, and Shanthi Nataraj, What Aspects of Formality Do Workers Value? Evidence from a Choice Experiment in Bangladesh, RAND (WR-1197), 2017

Ann Harrison, Leslie A. Martin, and Shanthi Nataraj, "Green Industrial Policy in Emerging Markets," Annual Review of Resource Economics, 9, 2017 (forthcoming)

Alexander D. Rothenberg, Samuel Bazzi, Shanthi Nataraj, Amalavoyal V. Chari, Assessing the Spatial Concentration of Indonesia's Manufacturing Sector: Evidence from Three Decades, RAND (WR-1180), 2017

Ann Harrison, Benjamin Hyman, Leslie Martin, and Shanthi Nataraj, "When Do Firms Go Green? Comparing Price Incentives with Command and Control Regulations in India," NBER Working Paper 21763, 2015

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


  • 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