Hello! I am an Assistant Professor of Global Development Policy at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, where I am tenure-track faculty. I am also Graduate Faculty with BU’s Department of Political Science, a Core Faculty at the Global Development Policy Center and affiliated faculty with the Institute for Economic Development.

My expertise is in comparative politics with a substantive focus on gender, South Asia, representation, political economy, and institutions. My research combines extensive field research, experimental methods, and innovative theory building to identify the causal impact of changes in laws, norms, and resources on women’s ability to engage the state, the scope of individual agency (which may expand or diminish), and the advancement of collective agendas.

A first series of publications capture the scope and dynamics of backlash to gender-equalizing reforms around a crucial good – land inheritance – in the world’s largest democracy: India. My articles are published in the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Development Economics, and Asian Survey, and my first book, Women, Power, and Property: The Paradox of Gender Equality Laws in India is published with Cambridge University Press, in the Cambridge Studies in Gender and Politics Series.

In Women, Power, and Property, I study the relationship between political representation and economic empowerment. I find a paradoxical outcome of quotas improving women’s political voice: representation ensures enforcement of women’s new economic rights, but also mobilizes backlash against them. I theorize that backlash to gender-equalizing reform depends on the “cost” expected from enforcement of women’s rights. Indeed, I find that women can reduce this backlash when they gain representation and rights at critical junctures. In India, such opportunities occur around marriage negotiations, when women have the opportunity to strike integrative bargains that improve familial welfare: trading traditional monetary dowry for property inheritance. My work confirms the power of well-designed quotas to not only to improve women’s economic claims but broaden their acceptance by changing perceptions of parity.

Additional work, forthcoming in the Journal of Politics (with Nikhar Gaikwad) identifies how cultural norms help drive the global gender gap in political participation and political economy preferences.

Currently, I am advancing two new projects that identify the causal impact of important global phenomena on the evolution of institutions. First, with Simon Chauchard and Alyssa Heinze, we study the impact of quotas that mandate women’s political representation on elected women’s ability to alter the state. Second, through solo work and a project with Akshay Dixit, we study the impact of severe weather shocks induced by climate change on women’s ability to transform politics through collective engagement in Bangladesh.

I am the recipient of a Marshall Scholarship and Truman Scholarship, and have worked to develop, implement, and analyze randomized field experiments studying the impact of economic empowerment on social and economic equality with MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) and the World Bank.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions at rebrule ‘at’ bu ‘dot’ edu. For more details, see my CV, research, teaching, data I use, and @BruleRachel on Twitter.