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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 or disabled citizens), and they are implemented on a “minimum guarantee” basis. We show that, the Supreme Court-mandated procedure suffers from two major deficiencies: Not only a candidate can lose a position to a less meritorious candidate from a higher-privilege group, completely against the philosophy of affirmative action, but she can also lose a position simply because of disclosing her disadvantaged status. This loophole under the Supreme Court-mandated procedure causes widespread confusion in India, resulting in countless lawsuits, conflicting judgements on these law- suits, and even defiance in some of its states. A recent amendment in the Constitution of India has a potential to amplify the adverse effects of these shortcomings, especially to the detriment of female candidates. We propose an alternative procedure that resolves both deficiencies with the smallest possible deviation from the Supreme Court-mandated procedure.

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.
  • Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:977
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Aygün, Orhan & Turhan, Bertan, 2020. "Dynamic reserves in matching markets," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    2. Roth, Alvin E. & Sonmez, Tayfun & Utku Unver, M., 2005. "Pairwise kidney exchange," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 151-188, December.
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    4. Kominers, Scott Duke & Sönmez, Tayfun, 2016. "Matching with slot-specific priorities: theory," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(2), May.
    5. 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.
    6. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Tayfun Sönmez, 2003. "School Choice: A Mechanism Design Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 729-747, June.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Schummer, James & Abizada, Azar, 2017. "Incentives in landing slot problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 29-55.
    11. Andersson, Tommy, 2017. "Refugee Matching as a Market Design Application," Working Papers 2017:16, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    12. 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.
    13. Fragiadakis, Daniel & Troyan, Peter, 2017. "Improving matching under hard distributional constraints," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(2), May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Aygün, Orhan & Turhan, Bertan, 2020. "Dynamic reserves in matching markets," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    2. 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.
    3. Parag A. Pathak & Alex Rees-Jones & Tayfun Sönmez, 2020. "Immigration Lottery Design: Engineered and Coincidental Consequences of H-1B Reforms," NBER Working Papers 26767, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Biró, Péter & Gudmundsson, Jens, 2021. "Complexity of finding Pareto-efficient allocations of highest welfare," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 291(2), pages 614-628.
    5. Parag A. Pathak & Alex Rees-Jones & Tayfun Sönmez, 2020. "Reversing Reserves," NBER Working Papers 26963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Dur, Umut & Pathak, Parag A. & Sönmez, Tayfun, 2020. "Explicit vs. statistical targeting in affirmative action: Theory and evidence from Chicago's exam schools," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 187(C).
    7. Tayfun Sönmez & M. Bumin Yenmez, 2019. "Affirmative Action with Overlapping Reserves," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 990, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 15 Jan 2020.
    8. Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez & M. Utku Ünver & M. Bumin Yenmez, 2020. "Fair Allocation of Vaccines, Ventilators and Antiviral Treatments: Leaving No Ethical Value Behind in Health Care Rationing," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 1015, Boston College Department of Economics.
    9. Aygün, Orhan & Turhan, Bertan, 2019. "Matching with Generalized Lexicographic Choice Rules," ISU General Staff Papers 20191101070000, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    10. Tayfun Sönmez & M. Bumin Yenmez, 2019. "Affirmative Action in India via Vertical, Horizontal, and Overlapping Reservations," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 1026, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 15 Jan 2021.
    11. 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.
    12. Orhan Aygun & Bertan Turhan, 2020. "Designing Direct Matching Mechanism for India with Comprehensive Affirmative Action," Papers 2004.13264, arXiv.org, revised Jul 2020.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Market design; matching; affirmative action;
    All these keywords.

    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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