Global Development Institute Blog

Bina Agarwal, Professor of Development Economics and Environment at GDI, and James K. Boyce, University of Amherst, Massachusetts, have jointly won an inaugural prize “for their ground-breaking work in the field of social and environmental inequalities”.

The growing field of study around economic, social, and environmental inequalities has led to increasingly influential work shaping our understanding of global disparity. Now, two major institutions in France  ̶ the World Inequality Lab (WIL) and the Sciences Po’s Center for Research on Social Inequalities (CRIS)  ̶  are seeking to recognise thought leaders in inequality research through the newly established Global Inequality Research Award (GiRA).

The World Inequality Lab, led by Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chanel, gathers research and longitudinal data relating to income and wealth inequality across countries with a global team of scholars, while the Sciences Po CRIS Research Center is an interdisciplinary institute hosting economists, sociologists, and political scientists.

Agarwal’s receipt of the award is a reflection of her international and complex approach to inequality research, states the prize, noting that her work “clearly sheds light on at least three intertwined forms of inequality: gender, socio-economic and environmental”.

When asked how she felt about the prize, she said:

“I am delighted to receive this prize, although it was also a complete surprise to me, given how much good scholarship there is now on multidimensional inequality, and I am but one scholar among many. Of course, many of us who research on diverse dimensions of inequality want those inequalities to decline and disappear. In my own work, I therefore not only seek to recognise and measure inequalities, especially by gender, but also suggest ways of reducing them.”


Bina Agarwal’s pioneering research on themes of inequality


Agarwal’s research focuses especially on three broad areas: agrarian change, property ownership, and environmental governance, especially from a political economy and gender perspective.

Her 1994 multi awarding winning book, A Field of One’s Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia, pioneered the issue of gender inequalities in ownership of property, especially land, in South Asia, and the historical, legal and social factors underlying the inequalities. Her subsequent work on the subject, including recent papers, demonstrate how owning immovable property enhances women’s and family welfare and reduces their risk of domestic violence. She also empirically measures the persistent gender gap in actual land ownership.

Similarly, her book Gender and Green Governance, and over 20 papers focus on diverse dimensions of environmental management and change, and the positive conservation outcomes when there is equal participation of women and tribal communities in governing the commons. She is now writing a book on group farming in Asia and Europe, drawing on detailed empirical and field research in India, France, Romania, Canada and the UK. This, she argues, can provide a transition towards reducing inequalities among farmers in access to land and capital.

Agarwal’s work has had global policy impact, leading to measures that have reduced gender inequality on several counts. In 2005 she also led a successful civil society campaign to make the Hindu inheritance law gender equal, thus benefitting millions of women and girls in India.

To read more about Bina’s recent research, please see the following links:

Personal website:

2023. Agarwal, Bina and Malvika Mahesh. ‘Does the landowner’s gender affect self-cultivation and farm productivity? An analysis for India’. Journal of Development Studies, 59(5): 758-777.

2023. Agarwal, Bina. ‘Gender, Presence and Representation: Can Presence Alone Make for Effective Representation?’ Social Change, 53(1): 34-50.

2022. Agarwal, Bina. ‘Women’s Struggle for Land in South Asia: Can Legal Reforms Trump Social Norms?’ WIDER annual lecture # 25.

2021. Agarwal, B. ‘Imperatives of recognizing the complexities: gendered impacts and responses to COVID-19 in India’, Economia Politica, 39: 31-522021.

2021. Agarwal, Bina, Pervesh Anthwal and Malvika Mahesh. ‘How many and which women own land in India: Intra-gender and inter-gender gaps’, Journal of Development Studies, 57(11): 1807–1829.

2021. Agarwal, Bina, Melinda Dobay and Rachel Sabates-Wheeler ‘Revisiting group farming in a post-socialist economy: The case of Romania’, Journal of Rural Studies, 81: 148-158.

2018. Agarwal, Bina. ‘Can group farms outperform individual family farms? Empirical insights from India’, World Development, 108: 57-73.

2018. Agarwal, Bina and Bruno Dorin. ‘Group farming in France: Why do some regions have more cooperative ventures than others?’ Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 51(3): 781-804.

2018. Agarwal, Bina. ‘Gender equality, food security and the sustainable development goals’, Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability, 34:26-32.

Note:  This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.

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