The Impact of Participation Policies on Socioeconomic Interactions
Project Outcomes Statement
Disadvantaged groups are often excluded from social and economic opportunities. For example, they may be less likely to hear about job opportunities, educational opportunities, welfare policies (even those targeted towards them), and so on. In turn, they rely on their social and economic networks to help deal with the lack of opportunities. Our project's goals are to understand if, when, and why affirmative action can play a role in combating these issues. We are working in the context of Indian political reservations for historically disadvantaged caste groups in the state of Bihar, India. Our aim is to study the role of affirmative-action type policies in changing social structure and how these changes in turn affect the costs of cross-group interaction and the speed and extent of social learning.
First, we are finding that the affirmative action policy did generate changes to social structure. Namely, the scheduled caste groups, groups most directly affected by the policy, report substantial reconfiguration of network links. We observe an increase in within-group links, a decrease in cross-group links, with the information links being most affected. However, we do not find a significant change in social links among the privileged castes. Thus, this led to an increase in homophily at the village level and a reduction in the capacity for social learning. This is consistent with our findings on knowledge measurements about local health workers, and education scholarships.
Second, we also show that the distancing of groups from one another did not change the norms of interaction, stereotypes about the different groups, or caste animus. We observe a decreased salience of caste concerns and fall in the odds of caste coming up in sensitive conversations.
Third, the delivery of public services increases overall under affirmative action, likely because the groups gaining representation have more to gain from improved government service delivery. We replicate the findings of Kumar and Sharan (2021) with our survey data, and show that affirmative action policy increased overall access to social programs for the SCs, including pensions, rations, and farmer income supplement, without any detrimental impacts to the privileged caste groups. Further, we show that the perceived job performance of the local government head is higher under reservation.
Supported by the National Science Foundation grant #1559469
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