Photo: HT
Photo: HT

Affirmative action boosts education among SCs

Caste and caste-based entitlements have been a contentious idea in India since the foundation of the republic

Caste and caste-based entitlements have been a contentious idea in India since the foundation of the republic. A new study by Guilhem Cassan, published in the Journal of Development Economics, attempts to answer some knotty questions on caste-based affirmative action using empirical evidence.

Cassan uses the second round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 1998-99 to show that educational attainment among scheduled castes (SCs) increased thanks to affirmative action—reservations in jobs, education, and in legislatures. By comparing the educational outcomes of ‘jatis’ classified as SC in 1950s (considered early SCs) with those included during the 1970s (the late SCs), he finds that the early SCs have benefited more from affirmative action. While a positive impact is observed among SC men, there is no such effect among SC women.

Cassan argues that public policies are ineffective for individuals that are at an intersection of more than one oppressed group. He also highlights how this might also be a reflection of underlying social mores that favours men over women. Even when families have greater access to opportunities due to affirmative action, it is the male child which is most likely to have the first shot at those opportunities, he suggests.

Also read : Affirmative action, education and gender: Evidence from India

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