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Affirmative action in education: Evidence from engineering college admissions in India

  • Bertrand, Marianne
  • Hanna, Rema
  • Mullainathan, Sendhil

This paper examines an affirmative action program for "lower-caste" groups in engineering colleges in India. We study both the targeting properties of the program, and its implications for labor market outcomes. We find that affirmative action successfully targets the financially disadvantaged: the upper-caste applicants that are displaced by affirmative action come from a richer economic background than the lower-caste applicants that are displacing them. Targeting by caste, however, may lead to the exclusion of other disadvantaged groups. For example, caste-based targeting reduces the overall number of females entering engineering colleges. We find that despite poor entrance exam scores, lower-caste entrants obtain a positive return to admission. Our estimates, however, also suggest that these gains may come at an absolute cost because the income losses experienced by displaced upper-caste applicants are larger than the income gains experienced by displacing lower-caste students. Limited sample sizes in our preferred econometric specifications, however, prevent us from drawing strong conclusions from these labor market findings.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 94 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (February)
Pages: 16-29

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:94:y:2010:i:1-2:p:16-29
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Jonathan S. Leonard, 1984. "Affirmative Action as Earnings Redistribution: The Targeting of Compliance Reviews," NBER Working Papers 1328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Harry Holzer & David Neumark, 1999. "Assessing Affirmative Action," NBER Working Papers 7323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Loury, Linda Datcher & Garman, David, 1993. "Affirmative Action in Higher Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 99-103, May.
  5. Falaris, Evangelos M., 2003. "The effect of survey attrition in longitudinal surveys: evidence from Peru, Cote d'Ivoire and Vietnam," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-157, February.
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  7. David Card & Alexandre Mas & Jesse Rothstein, 2008. "Tipping and the Dynamics of Segregation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 177-218, 02.
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  9. O'Connell, Philip J. & Russell, Helen & FitzGerald, John, 2006. "Human Resources," Book Chapters, in: Morgenroth, Edgar (ed.), Ex-Ante Evaluation of the Investment Priorities for the National Development Plan 2007-2013 Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  10. 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.
  11. Roland G. Freyer, Jr. & Glenn C. Loury & Tolga Yuret, 2003. "Color Blind Affirmative Action," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-131, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  12. Jesse Rothstein & Albert H. Yoon, 2008. "Affirmative Action in Law School Admissions: What Do Racial Preferences Do?," NBER Working Papers 14276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Osborne, Evan, 2001. "Culture, Development, and Government: Reservations in India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(3), pages 659-85, April.
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