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Elite dominance and under-investment in mass education: Disparity in the social development of the Indian states, 1960-92

Abstract

Literacy rates continue to be strikingly low among women and low caste population compared to the general population not only in any Indian state, but more so in the worst performing ones. The present paper offers an explanation of this disparate development in terms of the hypothesis of elite dominance that discriminates against women and low-caste people and systematically under-invests in mass education. We experiment with various indirect economic and political measures of elite dominance. Results based on the Indian state-level data for the period 1960-92 suggest that higher share of land held by the top 5% of the population (a) lowers spending on education as well as total developmental spending and (b) increases total non-developmental spending. (c) Greater proportion of minority representations (female and low caste members) in the ruling government however fails to have any perceptible impact on both development (including education) and non-development spending in our sample. (d) While underinvestment in education by the elite is supported by the lack of demand for education from the poorer population (who are often the marginalised people), greater initiatives of the state to enact land reform legislations enhance the spending on education

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This paper was published in Brunel University Research Archive.

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