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Does Affirmative Action Work? Caste, Gender, College Quality, and Academic Success in India

Listed author(s):
  • Surendrakumar Bagde
  • Dennis Epple
  • Lowell Taylor

Public policy in modern India features affirmative action programs intended to reduce inequality that stems from a centuries-old caste structure and history of disparate treatment by gender. We study the effects of one such affirmative action program: an admissions policy that fixes percentage quotas, common across more than 200 engineering colleges, for disadvantaged castes and for women. We show that the program increases college attendance of targeted students, particularly at relatively higher-quality institutions. An important concern is that affirmative action might harm intended beneficiaries by placing them in academic programs for which they are ill-prepared. We find no evidence of such adverse impacts.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 106 (2016)
Issue (Month): 6 (June)
Pages: 1495-1521

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:106:y:2016:i:6:p:1495-1521
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20140783
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  1. Moro, Andrea & Norman, Peter, 2003. "Affirmative action in a competitive economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 567-594, March.
  2. William Darity, Jr. & Ashwini Deshpande & Thomas Weisskopf, 2011. "Who Is Eligible? Should Affirmative Action be Group‐ or Class‐Based?," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(1), pages 238-268, January.
  3. Lundberg, Shelly J & Startz, Richard, 1983. "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 340-347, June.
  4. Jesse Rothstein & Albert H. Yoon, 2007. "Affirmative Action in Law School Admissions: What Do Racial Preferences Do?," Working Papers 20, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Education Research Section..
  5. Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Glenn C. Loury, 2005. "Affirmative Action and Its Mythology," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 147-162, Summer.
  6. Cristian Pop-Eleches & Miguel Urquiola, 2013. "Going to a Better School: Effects and Behavioral Responses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1289-1324, June.
  7. Bertrand, Marianne & Hanna, Rema & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2010. "Affirmative action in education: Evidence from engineering college admissions in India," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 16-29, February.
  8. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 2005. "Would the Elimination of Affirmative Action Affect Highly Qualified Minority Applicants? Evidence from California and Texas," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(3), pages 416-434, April.
  9. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano & Holger Sieg, 2008. "Diversity and Affirmative Action in Higher Education," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 10(4), pages 475-501, 08.
  10. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban M. Aucejo & Hanming Fang & Kenneth I. Spenner, 2011. "Does affirmative action lead to mismatch? A new test and evidence," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(3), pages 303-333, November.
  11. Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & Michael Kremer, 2011. "Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1739-1774, August.
  12. Karthik Muralidharan & Venkatesh Sundararaman, 2011. "Teacher Performance Pay: Experimental Evidence from India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(1), pages 39-77.
  13. Peter Arcidiacono & Michael Lovenheim, 2016. "Affirmative Action and the Quality-Fit Trade-Off," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 3-51, March.
  14. Mark C. Long, 2004. "Race and College Admissions: An Alternative to Affirmative Action?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 1020-1033, November.
  15. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2006. "Traditional Institutions Meet the Modern World: Caste, Gender, and Schooling Choice in a Globalizing Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1225-1252, September.
  16. George Akerlof, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617.
  17. Jessica S. Howell, 2010. "Assessing the Impact of Eliminating Affirmative Action in Higher Education," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(1), pages 113-166, 01.
  18. Siwan Anderson, 2011. "Caste as an Impediment to Trade," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 239-263, January.
  19. Peter Hinrichs, 2012. "The Effects of Affirmative Action Bans on College Enrollment, Educational Attainment, and the Demographic Composition of Universities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 712-722, August.
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