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Why is Mobility in India so Low? Social Insurance, Inequality, and Growth

  • Kaivan Munshi
  • Mark Rosenzweig

This paper examines the hypothesis that the persistence of low spatial and marital mobility in rural India, despite increased growth rates and rising inequality in recent years, is due to the existence of sub-caste networks that provide mutual insurance to their members. Unique panel data providing information on income, assets, gifts, loans, consumption, marriage, and migration are used to link caste networks to household and aggregate mobility. Our key finding, consistent with the hypothesis that local risk-sharing networks restrict mobility, is that among households with the same (permanent) income, those in higher-income caste networks are more likely to participate in caste-based insurance arrangements and are less likely to both out-marry and out-migrate. At the aggregate level, the networks appear to have coped successfully with the rising inequality within sub-castes that accompanied the Green Revolution. The results suggest that caste networks will continue to smooth consumption in rural India for the foreseeable future, as they have for centuries, unless alternative consumption-smoothing mechanisms of comparable quality become available.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14850.

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Date of creation: Apr 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14850
Note: EFG
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  1. Ethan Ligon & Jonathan P. Thomas & Tim Worrall, 2002. "Informal Insurance Arrangements with Limited Commitment: Theory and Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 209-244.
  2. Foster, Andrew D & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1996. "Technical Change and Human-Capital Returns and Investments: Evidence from the Green Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 931-53, September.
  3. Grimard, Franque, 1997. "Household consumption smoothing through ethnic ties: evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 391-422, August.
  4. La Ferrara, Eliana, 2002. "Inequality and group participation: theory and evidence from rural Tanzania," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 235-273, August.
  5. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-91, May.
  6. Andrew D. Foster & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2002. "Household Division and Rural Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 839-869.
  7. Munshi, Kaivan, 2004. "Social learning in a heterogeneous population: technology diffusion in the Indian Green Revolution," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 185-213, February.
  8. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "Reciprocal Exchange: A Self-Sustaining System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 830-51, September.
  9. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Stark, Oded, 1989. "Consumption Smoothing, Migration, and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 905-26, August.
  10. Maurizio Mazzocco & Shiv Saini, 2012. "Testing Efficient Risk Sharing with Heterogeneous Risk Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 428-68, February.
  11. Luke, Nancy & Munshi, Kaivan, 2007. "Social affiliation and the demand for health services: Caste and child health in South India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 256-279, July.
  12. Ligon, Ethan, 1998. "Risk Sharing and Information in Village Economics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(4), pages 847-64, October.
  13. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2006. "Traditional Institutions Meet the Modern World: Caste, Gender, and Schooling Choice in a Globalizing Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1225-1252, September.
  14. Jean-Philippe Platteau, 1997. "Mutual insurance as an elusive concept in traditional rural communities," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(6), pages 764-796.
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