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.



  • DEV-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. "Informal Employment and Development: Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion." The European Journal of Development Research 26.4 (September 2014): 397-418.
    • Chen, Martha. "Recognizing Domestic Workers, Regulating Domestic Work: Conceptual, Measurement, and Regulatory Challenges." Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/Revue Femmes et Droit 23.1 (April 2011): 167-184.
  • Book Chapters
    • Chen, Martha. "Global Recession and the Informal Economy: Evidence from Latin America and Beyond." The Global Economic Crisis in Latin America. Ed. Michael Cohen. Routledge, May 2012.
    • Chen, Martha. "Informality, Poverty, and Gender in the Global South." The International Handbook Of Gender And Poverty. Ed. Sylvia Chant. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010.
    • Chen, Martha. "Rethinking the Informal Economy: Linkages with the Formal Economy and the Formal Regulatory Environment." Linking the Formal and Informal Economy: Concepts and Policies. Ed. Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis, Ravi Kanbur, and Elinor Ostrom. Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Books
    • Chen, Martha, Joann Vanek, Francie Lund, James Heintz, with Renana Jhabvala and Christine Bonner. Progress of the World's Women 2005: Women, Work & Poverty. United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), 2005.
    • Chen, Martha, Joann Vanek, and Marilyn Carr. Mainstreaming Informal Employment and Gender in Poverty Reduction: A Handbook for Policy Makers and Other Stakeholders. Commonwealth Secretariat, 2004.
  • Edited Volumes
    • Bali, Namrata, Martha Alter Chen, and Ravi Kanbur, eds. Bridging Perspectives: Labour, Informality, and Poverty. SEWA Academy, 2012.
    • Chen, Martha, Renana Jhabvala, Ravi Kanbur, and Carol Richards, eds. Membership Based Organizations of the Poor. Routledge: Taylor & Francis, 2007.
  • Research Papers/Reports
    • Chen, Martha. "The Informal Economy: Definitions, Theories and Policies." WIEGO Working Paper No. 1, August 2012.

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