Is India Better off Today than 15 Years ago? A Robust Multidimensional Answer
This paper provides a robust normative evaluation of the spectacular growth episode that India has experienced in the last 15 years. Specifically, the paper compares the evolution, between 1998, 1996 and 2001 of the distribution of several important individual attributes on the basis of ethically robust dominance criteria. The individual attributes considered are real consumptions (measured at the individual level), literacy rate, infant mortality and violent crime rates (all measured at the district levels). District level variables are interpreted as (local) public goods which, along with consumption, are assumed to contribute to individual well being. The robust criteria used are generalizations, to more than two attributes, of the first and the second order dominance criteria of Atkinson and Bourguignon (1982) and are known to correspond to the unanimity of utilitarian value judgements taken over a specific class of individual utility functions. The main result of the empirical analysis is that all utilitarian rankings of distributions of the four attributes who assume that individual utility functions satisfy the assumptions of second order dominance agree that India is better off in 2002 than in 1996. Furthermore, if one removes crime from the list of attributes, the dominance is shown to apply steadily over the whole period and to be of first order on the period 1988-1996.
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