How Lives Change: Seven Decades of a North Indian Village, Palanpur (Himanshu)

Convener(s): Queen Elizabeth House

Speaker(s): Himanshu


Development economics is about understanding how and why lives and livelihoods change.  The village of Palanpur, in Moradabad district, Uttar Pradesh, in north India offers a unique opportunity to examine some of these issues from the lens of a single village. It draws on seven decades of detailed data collection by a team of dedicated development economists to understand the evolution of Palanpur’s economy, society, and politics. Palanpur has evolved from a very poor, fairly closed, farming community with a rather rigid social structure, to a significantly less poor village with a diversified portfolio of economic activities and extensive links to the outside world. The emerging story of integration of the village economy with the outside world is placed against the backdrop of India’s own transition from a primarily agrarian slow growing economy to a rapidly growing modern economy. These key forces of change, from green revolution to an open and liberalised Indian economy, have profoundly influenced poverty, income mobility, and inequality in Palanpur. And yet, against a backdrop of real economic growth and structural transformation, human development outcomes have shown only weak progress and remain stubbornly resistant to change. We examine some of these issues in relation to the existing theories of development and consider possible implications for India’s wider development. These include the role of informal activities in understanding the growth process, entrepreneurship, sustainability, inequality as an outcome of mobility, and the role of empowerment in public pressure, all of which involve understanding the role and evolution of behaviour and institutions.


Himanshu is currently Associate Professor at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University and British Academy Visiting Fellow, STICERD, London School of Economics and Political Science. His primary areas of research are issues of poverty, inequality and agrarian change. This seminar is based on author’s recent book co-authored with Nicholas Stern and Peter Lanjouw, “How Lives Change: Palanpur, India and Development Economics”, Oxford University Press. 2018.