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Social fragmentation and public goods: polarization, inequality and patronage in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

A vast recent literature has stressed social fragmentation's negative impact on the provision of public goods. It has been established theoretically that social fragmentation engenders discord and thereby undermines public goods provision. Empirical research has produced mixed results about this relationship. On the one hand it rarely holds for all the goods and on another hand it appears attenuated at the micro-level. Three points ought to be considered. First, the negative role attributed to social fragmentation rests upon the actuality of a relationship between social antagonisms and ethnic diversity. Yet, such an actuality is to be proved. Second, should such a relationship exist, polarization indices would be more appropriate than the traditional fractionalization index used so far in the literature. Third, theoretical works have set aside the possibility of ethnic patronage in accessing public goods. Nevertheless, it is a central issue as patronage is common in developing countries. In this event, a positive relationship could be found between social fragmentation and the presence of public goods. This article aims at showing that such a positive relationship does exist, at least in parts of India, as a consequence of caste patronage. It also shown that polarization is irrelevant as social antagonisms do not seem to be an obstacle to the provision of public goods

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Paper provided by Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne in its series Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne with number 10026.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mse:cesdoc:10026
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  2. Joan-Maria Esteban & Debraj Ray, 1991. "On the Measurement of Polarization," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 18, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
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