Martha Chen

Lecturer in Public Policy
Hauser Institute for Nonprofit Organizations
Office Address
Brattle - Suite 550-557
Mailing Address
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Mailbox 32
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617-495-0797
Karen McCabe (617-496-7037)
Martha Chen


Martha Chen is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, an Affiliated Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and International Coordinator of the global research-policy-action network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). An experienced development practitioner and scholar, her areas of specialization are employment, gender, and poverty with a focus on the working poor in the informal economy. Before joining Harvard in 1987, she had two decades of resident experience in Bangladesh working with BRAC (now the world's largest non-governmental organization) and in India, where she served as field representative of Oxfam America for India and Bangladesh. Marty received a PhD in South Asia Regional Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author and editor of numerous books including Bridging Perspectives:  Labour, Informal Employment, and Poverty (co-edited with Namrata Bali and Ravi Kanbur), The Progress of the World’s Women 2005: Women, Work and Poverty (co-authored with Joann Vanek, Francie Lund, James Heintz, Renana Jhabvala and Chris Bonner), Mainstreaming Informal Employment and Gender in Poverty Reduction (co-authored with Marilyn Carr and Joann Vanek), Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture (co-authored with Joann Vanek and others) and Perpetual Mourning: Widowhood in Rural India. Dr. Chen was awarded a high civilian award, the Padma Shri, by the Government of India in April 2011; and a Friends of Bangladesh Liberation War award by the Government of Bangladesh in December 2012. At Harvard’s annual India Conference on February 6, 2016, Marty was the chair of a panel entitled “Empowering Women at the Bottom of the Pyramid: To Overcome Gender Inequality and Poverty in India.”



  • PED-375 The Informal Economy: Is Formalization the Answer?

Media Expertise

Martha Chen welcomes media inquiries on the following subjects:

Additional experts may be found by clicking on each subject listed. You may contact faculty directly or if you need assistance contact the Communications Office at 617-495-1115.


For a complete list of faculty citations from 2001 - present, please visit the HKS Faculty Research Connection.

Selected Publication Citations:

  • Academic Journal/Scholarly Articles
    • Chen, Martha, Sally Roever, and Caroline Skinner. "Urban Livelihoods: Reviewing the Evidence in Support of the New Urban Agenda." Environment and Urbanization Brief No. 34 (November 2016).
    • Chen, Martha, Sally Roever, and Caroline Skinner. "Editorial: Urban Livelihoods: Reframing Theory and Policy." Environment and Urbanization 28.2 (September 2016): 1-12.
    • Chen, Martha and Shalini Sinha. "Home-Based Workers and Cities." Environment and Urbanization 28.2 (September 2016): 343-358.
    • Chen, Martha. "Technology, Informal Workers and Cities: Insights from Ahmedabad (India), Durban (South Africa) and Lima (Peru)." Environment and Urbanization 28.2 (September 2016): 405-422.
    • Chen, Martha. "The Informal Economy: Recent Trends, Future Directions." New Solutions 26 (August 2016): 2.
    • Carr, Marilyn, Martha Alter Chen, and Jane Tate. "Globalization and Home-Based Workers." Feminist Economics 6.3 (December 2010): 123-142.
    • Chen, Martha. "Informality and Social Protection: Theories and Realities." IDS Bulletin 39.2 (May 2008): 18-27.
    • Chen, Martha. "Women and Informality: A Global Picture, the Global Movement." SAIS Review 21.1 (Winter-Spring 2001): 71-82.
    • Chen, Martha, Jennefer Sebstad, and Lesley O'Connell. "Counting the Invisible Workforce: The Case of Homebased Workers." World Development 27.3 (March 1999): 603-610.
  • Book Chapters
    • Chen, Martha, and Caroline Skinner. "The Urban Informal Economy: Enhanced Knowledge, Appropriate Policies and Effective Organization." The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South. Ed. Susan Parnell, and Sophie Oldfield. Routledge, 2014.
    • Chen, Martha. "The Informal Economy in Comparative Perspective." A Handbook of Economic Anthropology. Ed. James G. Carrier. Edward Elgar Pub, 2014.
    • Chen, Martha. "The Self-Employed Women’s Association." Social Movements II: Concerns of Equity and Security. Ed. T. K. Oommen. Oxford University Press, December 2009.
    • Chen, Martha. "Informal Economies." International Encyclopedia of Organization Studies. Ed. Stewart Clegg and James R. Bailey. Sage, 2008.
  • Books
    • Chen, Martha and G. Raveendran. Urban India 2011: Evidence. Indian Institute for Human Settlements, 2011.
  • Research Papers/Reports
    • Chen, Martha. "Expanding the Economic Potential of Women Informal Workers." Secretariat, UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, December 2016.
    • von Broembsen, Marlese, and Martha Chen. "Eliminating Legal Barriers from the Perspective of the Informal Economy." Secretariat, UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, September 2016.
    • Klugman, Jeni, Laura Tyson, and Panel and Deputy Panel Members of UN High Level Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment (including Martha Chen). "Leave No One Behind: A Call to Action for Gender Equality and Women's Economic Empowerment." Secretariat, UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, September 2016.
    • Chen, Martha. "The Urban Informal Economy: Towards More Inclusive Cities." Urbanet, August 2016.
    • Vanek, Joann, Martha Chen, and Govindan Raveendran. "A Guide to Obtaining Data on Types of Informal Workers in Official Statistics." WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 8, May 2015.
    • Chen, Martha. "Statistics on the Informal Economy: Definitions, Regional Estimates & Challenges." WIEGO Working Paper (Statistics) No. 2, April 2014.
    • Chen, Martha, and Govindan Raveendran. "Urban Employment in India: Recent Trends and Patterns." WIEGO Working Paper No. 7, January 2014.
    • Bali, Namrata, Kaushik Basu, Suman Bery, Haroon Bhorat, Françoise Carré, Martha Chen, Gary Fields, Ravi Kanbur, Santiago Levy, Francie Lund, Jeemol Unni and Imraan Valodia. "Informal Sector and Social Policy: Compendium of Personal and Technical Reflections. Cornell-SEWA-WIEGO Exposure and Dialogue Program." WIEGO, March 2009.
    • Chen, Martha, and Donna Doane. "Informality in South Asia: A Review." WIEGO Working Paper No. 4, September 2008.

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