The political economy of public goods: Some evidence from India
This paper examines how public goods get allocated by a centralized state. We use data on social structure and public goods in rural India over the sixties, seventies and eighties to examine the influence of particular social groups, and of social and economic heterogeneity more generally, on the availability of public goods. This was a period of rapid expansion in these goods and of important shifts in the political leverage enjoyed by different groups. We find that social divisions are important, but so are the relative positions of particular goups in the broader social hierarchy. These divisions are not however immutable, nor is their influence overwhelming. Some previously marginalized communities have gained over this period while others continue to be disadvantaged. There has also been considerable convergence in the availability of public goods over this period, suggesting that the state feels some compulsion to equalize access, even to those who are not politically influential.
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