Imperial College London


Business School

Associate Professor of Economics



sam.asher Website CV




492DCity and Guilds BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





I am an associate professor of economics at Imperial College (London) Business School. I was previously an assistant professor of international economics at Johns Hopkins SAIS and before that an economist at the Development Research Group (DECRG, World Bank). I am an associate of the Bureau for Research and the Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) and the Center for International Development (Harvard University), and an affiliate at the Centre for Policy Research (New Delhi). I received my PhD in economics from Harvard University, and was then a postdoctoral research fellow in the Economics Department and Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

My research seeks to understand the drivers of growth and structural transformation in lower income countries. I use high spatial resolution data from unconventional sources such as satellites and government administrative data exhaust to test for the role of place in shaping people's economic opportunities. I have published papers in the American Economic ReviewAmerican Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Economic Journal, Review of Economics and StatisticsManagement Science, and the World Bank Economic Review. Within this broader research agenda, I have papers studying i) the two way relationship between electoral politics and private sector development; ii) the impact of infrastructure (roads and canals) on the spatial distribution of economic growth; and iii) the role of cities and social identity in shaping access to economic opportunity. 

Together with my longtime collaborator Paul Novosad, I founded Development Data Lab in 2019 to help policymakers, researchers, civil society, and the private sector make much better use of the large amounts of data being generated in lower income countries. For the first time in history, the computerization of government and the availability of alternative data sources like satellite imagery and private firm data make it possible to study the process of economic development at high resolution. We believe that economic opportunity is often a highly local phenomenon: children only benefit from nearby schools, and workers in a location can only access jobs within commuting range. We have spent the last decade assembling a wide range of economic data on every village and town in India (N=600,000): living standards, firms, infrastructure, agricultural productivity, etc. This is the basis of much of my research, but we have also made it publicly available through the SHRUG open data platform, which has been downloaded over 15,000 times to date. 

If you are interested in working with me, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're always looking to work with people passionate about using the tools of economics and data science to better understand how development happens, and what can be done to make the world a more prosperous and equitable place.



Asher S, Bhowmick A, Campion A, et al., 2022, Big, Open Data for Development: A Vision for India, India Policy Forum, Vol:18, Pages:1-1รข

Novosad P, Rafkin C, Asher S, 2022, Mortality change among less educated Americans, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Vol:14, Pages:1-34

Cai R, Novosad P, Tandel V, et al., 2021, Representative Estimates of COVID-19 Infection Fatality Rates from Three Locations in India

Asher S, Lunt T, Matsuura R, et al., 2021, Development Research at High Geographic Resolution: An Analysis of Night-Lights, Firms, and Poverty in India Using the SHRUG Open Data Platform, World Bank Economic Review

Cai R, Novosad P, Tandel V, et al., 2021, Representative estimates of COVID-19 infection fatality rates from four locations in India: cross-sectional study, Bmj Open, Vol:11, Pages:e050920-e050920

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