“The incidence and effects of affirmative action: Evidence from quotas in private schools in India”
Abstract: We study the effectiveness — in improving educational access and student learning outcomes — of a nation-wide affirmative action scheme in India that reserves 25% of seats in private schools for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We leverage lottery-based allocation of seats in oversubscribed schools, in the state of Chhattisgarh, to identify causal effects. We report five main findings. First, applicants to the lottery have better-educated parents than average eligible households, making the policy less progressive than intended. Second, being allotted a quota seat increases the probability of attending a private school by 17 percentage points. Most (81%) of the students who were not allotted a seat attend private school anyway. Third, on the extensive margin, the policy’s primary effect is to induce 1-2 years of (private) preschool education: the effect is 21 percentage points for students seeking admission in Nursery but only 7.4 percentage points by Grade 1. Finally, the policy shifts which private schools students attend: winning a lottery makes students much more likely to be enrolled in their top-choice school, in schools with higher fees, and in an English-medium school. Finally, lottery winners score 0.15SD better during a phone assessment. The difference in learning outcomes can be explained by the response of schools to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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