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Caste connections and government transfers- The Mahadalits of Bihar


  • Hemanshu Kumar

    (Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)

  • Rohini Somanathan

    (Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics)


The category of Scheduled Castes, created for the purpose of affirmative action in India, is large, heterogeneous and unequal. In 2007, the state of Bihar classified the most disadvantaged among this group as ‘Mahadalits,’ to better target government transfers to them. A ‘Vikas Mitra’ (‘development friend’) was recruited from the most populous Mahadalit caste in each panchayat and had the task of connecting households to government officials administering social welfare programmes. We use household survey data from 48 panchayats across four districts of Bihar to ask whether households that belonged to the same caste as the Vikas Mitra had a significantly higher chance of getting programme benefits, as compared to Mahadalit households of other castes. We find this to be true for programmes with large one-time transfers such as the Indira Awas Yojana but not for more regular transfers, such as subsidized food grains. Our results suggest that jati identity remains salient within the Scheduled Castes of India. Classification-H53, I38, J15, J71

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  • Hemanshu Kumar & Rohini Somanathan, 2017. "Caste connections and government transfers- The Mahadalits of Bihar," Working papers 270, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cde:cdewps:270

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Lupin Rahman & Vijayendra Rao, 2004. "The Politics of Public Good Provision: Evidence from Indian Local Governments," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 416-426, 04/05.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2003. "Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2028, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    4. Banerjee, Abhijit & Somanathan, Rohini, 2007. "The political economy of public goods: Some evidence from India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 287-314, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Véronique Gille, 2016. "Application for social programs: the role of local politics and caste networks in affirmative action in India," Working Papers DT/2016/13, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    2. repec:eee:jcecon:v:46:y:2018:i:2:p:436-456 is not listed on IDEAS

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    affirmative action; caste; welfare programs; poverty targeting; networks;

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