The incidence of affirmative action: Evidence from quotas in private schools in India

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Syed Ali Naqi

Nov 29, 2021, 5:51:27 PM11/29/21
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Authors: Mauricio Romero and Abhijeet Singh

This paper studies the effects of India’s main school-integration policy — a 25% quota in private schools for disadvantaged students, whose fees are reimbursed by the state — on direct beneficiaries. Combining survey and administrative data from the state of Chhattisgarh, with lottery-based allocation of seats in oversubscribed schools, we show that receiving a quota seat makes students more likely to attend a private school (by 24 percentage points). However, within eligible caste groups, quota applicants are drawn disproportionately from more-educated and economically better-off households and over three-quarters of the applicants who were not allotted a quota seat also attended a private school as fee-paying students. Consequently, we estimate that ∼ 70% of the total expenditure on each quota seat is inframarginal to school choice. The policy delivers clear gains for direct beneficiaries but is unlikely to affect school integration without broadening the pool of applicants.

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Sreecharan Sankaranarayanan

Nov 30, 2021, 6:56:15 PM11/30/21
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Great paper with results confirming what has long been hypothesized. "broadening the pool of applicants" i.e., increasing awareness about its existence, not to mention the application requirements, deadlines, processes, and so on, has always been the biggest bottleneck to school-voucher type approaches. 

Even once the awareness issue is resolved, however, there are other socio-cultural issues that will prevent folks from exercising their rights. MGNREGA (employment guarantee for those outside the Indian context) illustrates this with even those aware of their rights being explicitly or implicitly denied them owing to power differentials, caste/economic class differentials, and of course, corruption. 

In any case, are you aware of any efforts targeted at providing this kind of awareness not just to potential beneficiaries, but to all stakeholders? Also, considering we are learning engineering here, I am wondering about ways to do this at scale.

Thanks for sharing!

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