Indian American researcher Bhumi Purohit has received the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) 2023 William Anderson Award for the best dissertation in the general field of federalism or intergovernmental relations, state, and local politics.
Purohit is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology.
Her research examines the behavioral and institutional barriers to women’s political representation, as well as institutional barriers to public service delivery in India.
Purohit’s research is motivated by questions such as: Why do women’s interests remain under-represented in politics, even with parity of electoral representation? How do gender biases about women politicians affect public service delivery outcomes in women’s constituencies?
In her dissertation, she examines this question by examining why and how bureaucracies create barriers for women once they are elected to office, particularly when bureaucrats sit at higher levels of office with the ability to strategically use discretion against lower-level politicians.
In the summer of 2023, she will start as an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown’s McCourt School.
“Laments of Getting Things Done: Bureaucratic Resistance Against Female Politicians in India” presents a path-breaking examination of bureaucratic resistance to locally elected women politicians in India, according to the citation from the award committee.
“It is the first study to systematically examine the gendered nature of bureaucratic resistance at the local level, three decades after decentralization reforms introduced quotas for women in local elections,” it notes.
Based on new survey data collated among local bureaucrats and female politicians, the thesis demonstrates that bureaucrats exhibit bias against elected female politicians, expecting them to be less effective in implementing policies, less able to organize local communities to pressure the state, and that female elected village heads are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to report bureaucratic resistance.
“Local bureaucrats are often described as being forced to ration resources and time,” the citation says. “This very fine contribution to our understanding of local politics and power in India provides a convincing explanation for how they make such decisions.”
Purohit holds a Master’s degree in Area Studies with distinction from the University of Oxford, with a concentration on Modern South Asia. She received her PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Prior to that, she graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and a certificate in Documentary Film Making.
Purohit earlier worked as a J-PAL Policy Consultant for the Ministry of Rural Development in India to create policy implementation plans for finance management reforms and rural poverty reduction.
She has additional experience with managing experiments and research with One Acre Fund in Kenya and running social enterprises in India and Sierra Leone.