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    About the WDR

    Development economics and policy are due for a redesign. In the past few decades, research from across the natural and social sciences has provided stunning insight into the way people think and make decisions. Whereas the first generation of development policy was based on the assumption that humans make decisions deliberatively and independently, and on the basis of consistent and self-interested preferences, recent research shows that decision making rarely proceeds this way. People think automatically: when deciding, they usually draw on what comes to mind effortlessly. People also think socially: social norms guide much of behavior, and many people prefer to cooperate as long as others are doing their share. And people think with mental models: what they perceive and how they interpret it depend on concepts and worldviews drawn from their societies and from shared histories.

    The World Development Report 2015 offers a concrete look at how these insights apply to development policy. It shows how a richer view of human behavior can help achieve development goals in many areas, including early childhood development, household finance, productivity, health, and climate change. It also shows how a more subtle view of human behavior provides new tools for interventions. Making even minor adjustments to a decisionmaking context, designing interventions based on an understanding of social preferences, and exposing individuals to new experiences and ways of thinking may enable people to improve their lives.

    The Report opens exciting new avenues for development work. It shows that poverty is not simply a state of material deprivation, but also a “tax” on cognitive resources that affects the quality of decision making. It emphasizes that all humans, including experts and policy makers, are subject to psychological and social influences on thinking, and that development organizations could benefit from procedures to improve their own deliberations and decision making. It demonstrates the need for more discovery, learning, and adaptation in policy design and implementation. The new approach to development economics has immense promise. Its scope of application is vast. This Report introduces an important new agenda for the development community.  

Core Team
  • Karla Hoff


    Karla Hoff Karla Hoff is a Senior Research Economist in the Development Economics Research Group (DECRG). Much of her work focuses on using the tools of economics to study social interactions. She has studied the effect on individuals’ behavior of neighborhoods, political constituencies, and ideology. She has published papers in the American Economic Review that explain how good people can form bad neighborhoods, how productivity is sensitive to social setting, and how historical legacies influence the difficulty of establishing a rule of law. She won a Citation of Excellence for one of the top 50 papers from Emerald Management Review in 2009 for her co-authored paper, “Exiting a Lawless State.” She was a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Inequality and Economic Performance, 1996–2006. She coedited The Economics of Rural Organization and Poverty Traps. In current work, she is evaluating the effect of a large-scale women’s empowerment project in India on the bias against women. Her work spans conceptual analysis and grassroots fieldwork. She has a BA in French from Wellesley College and a PhD in economics from Princeton. She taught English in the Peace Corps in the Ivory Coast.  Read More »

  • Varun Gauri


    Varun Gauriis Senior Economist with the Development Research Group of the World Bank and Codirector of the World Development Report 2015 on Mind and Culture. His current research examines how legal institutions and conceptions of justice and human rights affect human welfare. His publications include the books Courting Social Justice: The Judicial Enforcement of Social and Economics Rights in the Developing World School and School Choice in Chile, and papers and book chapters on a variety of topics in development. His research has been chronicled in The Economist, The Washington Post, and the Indian Express. At the World Bank, he has been engaged in projects and policy dialogue in a number of countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Timor-Leste, and Zimbabwe. He received a BA in philosophy and literature from the University of Chicago, a Masters and PhD in Public Policy from Princeton University, and has held positions as Visiting Lecturer in Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and Visiting Professor in the Department of Economics at ILADES in Santiago, Chile.  Read More »

  • Scott Abrahams

    Research Analyst

    Scott Abrahams is a research analyst working on the 2015 World Development Report. Before joining the World Bank he worked on implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act and analysis of systemic risk in the U.S. financial sector at the Federal Reserve Board. His research interests include the differences in perception of priced versus non-priced goods and the effects of donated goods and services on local markets. Scott holds an MA from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a BA in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis.

  • Sheheryar Banuri

    Core Team

    Sheheryar Banuri is an Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. His research lies at the intersection of development, public administration, public policy, and experimental economics. Using laboratory experiments, he studies policies aimed at reducing corruption or increasing performance in the public sector, the extent to which cross-cultural differences affect policy success, and the effect of different pay systems on the intrinsic motivation and effort of public officials. He has undertaken research and operational work in Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Burkina Faso.  Read More »

  • Steve Commins

    Core Team

    Stephen Commins is the Associate Director for Global Public Affairs and Lecturer in Urban Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Dr. Commins is also the Partnership and Strategy Specialist, Development Innovations, at International Medical Corps. Dr. Commins worked for seven years as the Senior Human Development Specialist in the Human Development Network at the World Bank and was a member of the World Development Report 2004 team. His recent work has focused on fragile states, disasters, and basic service delivery, particularly in the health sector. Recent papers include “Non-State Providers, the State and Health in Post-Conflict Fragile States”, “The Medium-Term Impact of Disasters in Bangladesh”, and “Decentralization and Accountability in Africa”, and a chapter in a new book on conflict and health. He currently is an adviser to the Secure Livelihoods Resource Consortium (Overseas Development Institute, UK; Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistan).

  • Anna Fruttero

    Core Team

    nna Fruttero is a Senior Economist with the Social Protection team in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Region at World Bank. Before joining the core team of the 2015 World Development Report, she was leading implementation and technical support of Bank projects in Brazil and the Dominican Republic, as well as analytical research on social protection programs and poverty in the LAC Region. Most recently, she has co-authored several reports and papers on Brazil (on aging, on chronic poverty and on the impact of the 2008/09 food and financial crisis on poverty) and a regional study on the social impact of the 2008 financial crisis in the LAC region. Her research interests include distributional impact of shocks, ex-ante and ex-post impact evaluations of social programs, and social protection systems. Anna holds a PhD in Economics from New York University.

  • Amy Corenswet

    Research Analyst

    Amy Corenswet is a Research Analyst with the World Development Report 2015. She recently graduated from Vassar College with a major in Economics and a minor in Art History. At Vassar, Amy conducted research that attempted to combine psychological measurements with economic outcomes. She also spent a semester at University College London, where she studied organizational psychology and behavioral economics. Before coming to the Bank, Amy worked as an intern in both publishing and marketing in New York City.

  • Allison Demeritt

    Core Team

    Allison Demeritt is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on cooperative processes and organizational dynamics, and much of her work bridges rational choice models with sociological views of social interaction. She is particularly interested in how policies can harness human sociality to solve collective action problems, a topic at the heart of the WDR. Her dissertation taps this theme, examining the degree to which school-level micro-institutions explain variations in school efficacy. Before joining the WDR team, Allison worked with the Center on Reinventing Public Education investigating how governance arrangements influence the quality of educational opportunities for students, particularly those from low-income communities. Prior to graduate school, Allison worked as a public finance analyst for an investment bank and as a product manager at where she analyzed customer behavior and led several company-wide product development and marketing initiatives. She served as a student advisory editor for the journal Social Problems, and has an AB in English from Princeton University.

  • Alaka Holla

    Core Team

    Alaka Holla is an Economist in the Health global practice. She currently helps government clients identify and solve problems related to the accessibility and quality of health services. Her research focuses on human capital investment and general decision-making in contexts of poverty and she led the data collection activities for the World Development Report 2015. She holds a PhD in Economics from Brown University.

  • Ryan Muldoon

    Core Team

    Ryan Muldoon is a Senior Research Fellow in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics program at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Rotman Institute of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, and his BS in Philosophy and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin. His primary research investigates how we can turn the challenge of increasing diversity into a resource that can be tapped for our mutual benefit. Specifically, he investigates how more diverse societies can be more just and have greater scientific and material success. His secondary research focuses on social norm dynamics and norm emergence.

  • Sana Rafiq

    Research Analyst

    Sana Rafiq is interested in economic development and disruptive solutions that create social value. She graduated from Carleton College with a double major in Economics and International Relations with a focus in Global Sustainable Development. Sana has conducted both academic and field research during her time at Carleton. She recently travelled to Bangladesh to study developmental methodologies implemented by organizations such as BRAC and Grameen. Sana also conducted field research in 11 countries in Europe to assess the level of dissonance on social and economic policy between the CORPER and the EU Commission. Inspired by her field research, Sana modeled an experiment to determine the role of communication in collective action problems and designed a networked computer-based experiment to study the role of communication and trust in facilitating voluntary cooperation. In her free time, Sana likes to play squash, travel, and read avant-garde stories.

  • Pauline Rouyer

    Research Analyst

    Pauline Rouyer holds a Master in Economics and Public Policy from Sciences Po Paris and Ecole Polytechnique, and a BA in Economics and Political Science from Sciences Po Paris, France. Before joining the WDR, she worked as a research assistant at the French Ministry of Education, where she focused on teaching practices for heterogeneous classes. Past research includes work on behavioral economics and cognition in the context of a randomized controlled trial with French disadvantaged youth.

  • Nan Zhou

    Research Analyst

    Nan Zhou is a Research Analyst in the WDR 2015 team. His research interests include choices under uncertainty and over time, especially in the contexts of poverty. Prior to joining the World Bank, he studied risk preference related to small probability events and conducted experiments to understand probability perceptions. He also collaborated with economists from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in a RAND project and improved the designs of financial literacy education tools for the disabled youth in US. Nan received a B.Soc.Sci. from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and an M.A. in Economics from Cornell University.

  • James Walsh

    Research Analyst

    James Walsh is a Research Analyst on the World Development Report 2015 Team. His main research interest lies at the intersection between the economics, philosophy, and public policy. Prior to joining the WDR Team, he served as a Teaching Fellow at Harvard College and as a member of the Saguaro Seminar Research Team, where he was a research assistant to Robert D. Putnam. He has previously worked at the Gross National Happiness Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan, where he focused on developing policy tools for implementing GNH strategy and with Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, where he focused on the scope for incorporating methodological pluralism and ethics into economic policy. He holds a BA in Economics and Political Science from Trinity College Dublin and a Master in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

  • Brónagh Murphy

    Production Team

    Brónagh Murphy has been the Senior Program Assistant for the office of World Development Report since 2009. She coordinates and provides technical and logistical support in the planning, production, and launch of the Report. Brónagh has also worked in the World Bank Institute, the Quality Assurance Group, and the Bank's Africa Region.

  • Mihaela Stangu

    Production Team

    Mihaela Stangu is a Program Assistant with the office of World Development Report at the World Bank. She provides logistical and technical support from planning to production stages. She is the Transaction Specialist for the unit handling consultant contracts and payments in addition to providing administrative support to the team. She has been with the Bank for 5 years and has worked on 3 previous WDRs.

  • Jason Victor

    Production Team

    Jason Victor is a Program Assistant with the office of World Development Report at the World Bank. He provides technical and logistical support in the planning, production, and launch of the Report. Jason has been with the Bank for 13 years and has worked on 9 previous WDRs. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering.

Advisory Panel
  • Daron Acemoglu

    Daron Acemoglu is currently the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. His principal interests are political economy, development economics, economic growth, technology, income and wage inequality, human capital and training, and labor economics. His most recent works concentrate on the role of institutions in economic development and political economy.

  • Paul Dimaggio

    Paul DiMaggio is Professor of Sociology and past Chair (1996-99) of the Sociology Department at Princeton University. A former Executive Director of Yale University's Program on Non-Profit Organizations (1982-87), through 1991 he was Professor in the Sociology Department, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, and School of Organization and Management at Yale. A graduate of Swarthmore College, he received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University in 1979. He has written widely on organizational analysis, focusing especially on nonprofit and cultural organizations, on patterns of participation in the arts, and cultural conflict in the U.S., and is currently studying the social implications of new digital technologies.

  • Herbert Gintis

    Herbert Gintis is External Professor, Santa Fe Institute, and Professor of Economics, Central European University. He and Professor Robert Boyd (Anthropology, UCLA) head a multidisciplinary research project that models such behaviors as empathy, reciprocity, insider/outsider behavior, vengefulness, and other observed human behaviors not well handled by the traditional model of the self-regarding agent.

  • Cass Sunstein

    Cass Sunstein is a US legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioural economics, who was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor and Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.


The team would like to acknowledge the generous support for the preparation of the  Report by the U.K. Department for International Development; Canada’s Department of  Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development; the Knowledge for Change Program; the Nordic  Trust Fund; and the World Bank research support budget. The team also thanks the German  Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Deutsche Gesellschaft  für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, which co-organized and hosted the WDR International  Policy Workshop in Berlin in December 2013. Consultations were held with the International  Monetary Fund; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; UNICEF  and several other United Nations organizations; the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign  Affairs; the European Commission; and agencies for development cooperation in Japan  (Japan International Cooperation Agency), France (Agence Française de Développement),  the United Kingdom (Department for International Development), and the United States  (U.S. Agency for International Development). Several other organizations sponsored events  to provide  feedback on the Report, including Columbia University, Cornell University,  the Danish Nudging Network, Experiments in Governance and Politics, Harvard University,  the International Rescue Committee, the London School of Economics and Political  Science, the Overseas Development Institute, Save the Children International, and the U.K.  Behavioural Insights Team.  

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