Shanta Pandey is focused on understanding and improving the life chances of poor women and children. Her research examines the impact that policies and programs have on the most vulnerable populations in the United States and developing regions of South Asia.
In the United States, she has analyzed national data as well as launched two longitudinal studies to understand the impact of the overhaul of 60 year-old entitlement programs on survival strategies of poor single mothers living in communities with very few opportunities—American Indian reservations and rural Missouri. Her findings contradicted the approach of 1996 federal welfare reform legislation to de-emphasize postsecondary education and place greater emphasis on labor force participation and marriage of poor women with children to lift them out of poverty. Instead, Pandey has consistently found postsecondary education, especially a bachelor’s degree to be a reliable predictor of economic-wellbeing of women with children. In these studies, she has advocated in favor of the policies and programs that empower young mothers by providing them with opportunities for education, especially 4-year college education.
Outside of the United States, Pandey has focused on policies and programs aimed at improving the status of women in South Asia (Nepal, India, and Bangladesh). She relies on both field studies and national surveys (demographic and health surveys) to assess women’s position in terms of their education, property rights and ownership, night blindness during pregnancy, child death, domestic abuse, tobacco use, and exposure to secondhand smoke. She examines policies and innovative program interventions aimed at improving women’s status, including their use of improved smokeless cook stoves, maternal and child health services, and child vaccination. In this body of work, she has documented that some of the critical risk factors that adversely affect women are their low/lack of education, early marriage, early pregnancy and birth, high prevalence of physical and sexual abuse, lack of voice in decision-making, and household poverty. Her research shows that changing policies in favor of women and children, disseminating promising innovations, and expanding health service delivery are only initial steps and are insufficient if women do not have the agency and power to independently utilize these policies and programs as necessary. Here, Pandey has advocated professional social workers to join other professionals and scale-up interdisciplinary work and play a key role in empowering women, their families, and communities. Her research has been funded by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, US department of Agriculture, and the MacArthur Foundation.
Pandey has trained and mentored social work faculty from Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and China. She has served on the Peer Review Committee for the Fullbright Specialist Program of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, Washington, D.C. At Washington University, she has served on the University’s Faculty Senate Council and co-chaired the Gender Pay Equity Study Steering Committee for the Danforth Campus. At the Brown School, she enjoys working toward gender equity and increasing faculty diversity across all ranks. Pandey coordinates the Research specialization, teaches research seminar and social welfare policy courses to MSW students and multivariable statistics to doctoral students.