“Residential Segregation and Unequal Access to Public Goods in India”
Are India’s Cities Reproducing its Rural Disparities? Evidence from 1.2m Neighborhoods
with Sam Asher (SAIS)
Abstract. Economists have long studied the role of location in shaping the economic opportunities available to households and firms. There is a vast literature in rich countries, particularly the US, on how segregation along ethnic lines affects economic outcomes. Yet despite much work on ethnic disparities in lower income countries, there is little quantitative evidence on the relationship between residential patterns, access to public goods, and living standards. We assemble a novel dataset of neighborhood-identified microdata on households and public goods for over one million neighborhoods to study whether the disparities faced by marginalized groups (MGs, namely Scheduled Castes and Muslims) in rural areas are being reproduced in India’s booming cities. We find that they are, specifically that a) both rural and urban India are highly segregated, with urban Scheduled Caste segregation averaging that of US Blacks; b) the government provides fewer health and educational facilities to neighborhoods with more MGs; c) MG households in high MG share neighborhoods are much poorer than comparable households elsewhere, particularly in urban areas; and d) younger cities are less segregated than older ones, suggesting that some of the forces driving segregation may be decreasing over time.