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Affirmative Action in India via Vertical and Horizontal Reservations

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  • Tayfun Sönmez

    () (Boston College)

  • M. Bumin Yenmez

    (Boston College)

Abstract

Built into the country’s constitution, one of the world’s most comprehensive affirmative action programs exists in India. Government jobs and seats at publicly funded educational institutions are allocated through a Supreme Court-mandated procedure that integrates a meritocracy-based system with a reservation system that provides a level playing field for disadvantaged groups through two types of special provisions. The higher-level provisions, known as vertical reservations, are exclusively intended for backward classes that faced historical discrimination, and implemented on a “set aside” basis. The lower-level provisions, known as horizontal reservations, are intended for other disadvantaged groups (such as women, disabled, or the economically disadvantaged), and they are implemented on a “minimum guarantee” basis. We show that, the Supreme Court-mandated procedure suffers from at least four major deficiencies. First and foremost, it is not well-defined when candidates can qualify for multiple horizontal reservations, a phenomenon that has been increasingly more common in recent years. Moreover, while a candidate can never lose a position to a less meritorious candidate from her own group under this procedure, she can lose a position to a less meritorious candidate from a higher-privilege group. This loophole under the Supreme Court-mandated procedure causes widespread confusion in India, resulting in countless lawsuits, conflicting judgements on these lawsuits, and even defiance in some of its states. We propose an alternative procedure that resolves these two major deficiencies and two additional ones.

Suggested Citation

  • Tayfun Sönmez & M. Bumin Yenmez, 2019. "Affirmative Action in India via Vertical and Horizontal Reservations," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 977, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 15 Jan 2020.
  • Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:977
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    File URL: http://fmwww.bc.edu/EC-P/wp977.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roth, Alvin E. & Sonmez, Tayfun & Utku Unver, M., 2005. "Pairwise kidney exchange," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 151-188, December.
    2. Kominers, Scott Duke & Sönmez, Tayfun, 2016. "Matching with slot-specific priorities: theory," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(2), May.
    3. Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Ünver, 2004. "Kidney Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 457-488.
    4. Paul Milgrom, 2000. "Putting Auction Theory to Work: The Simultaneous Ascending Auction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 245-272, April.
    5. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Tayfun Sönmez, 2003. "School Choice: A Mechanism Design Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 729-747, June.
    6. Benjamin Edelman & Michael Ostrovsky & Michael Schwarz, 2007. "Internet Advertising and the Generalized Second-Price Auction: Selling Billions of Dollars Worth of Keywords," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 242-259, March.
    7. Schummer, James & Abizada, Azar, 2017. "Incentives in landing slot problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 29-55.
    8. Andersson, Tommy, 2017. "Refugee Matching as a Market Design Application," Working Papers 2017:16, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    9. Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Ünver, 2010. "Course Bidding At Business Schools," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(1), pages 99-123, February.
    10. Fragiadakis, Daniel & Troyan, Peter, 2017. "Improving matching under hard distributional constraints," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(2), May.
    11. Tayfun Sönmez, 2013. "Bidding for Army Career Specialties: Improving the ROTC Branching Mechanism," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(1), pages 186-219.
    12. Umut Mert Dur & Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez, 2016. "Explicit vs. Statistical Preferential Treatment in Affirmative Action: Theory and Evidence from Chicago’s Exam Schools," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 906, Boston College Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Unver & M. Bumin Yenmez, 2020. "Leaving No Ethical Value Behind: Triage Protocol Design for Pandemic Rationing," NBER Working Papers 26951, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Tayfun Sönmez & M. Bumin Yenmez, 2019. "Constitutional Implementation of Vertical and Horizontal Reservations in India: A Unified Mechanism for Civil Service Allocation and College Admissions," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 978, Boston College Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Market design; matching; affirmative action;

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D47 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Market Design

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