Data for Development
June 2019
W elcome to the India Human Development Survey Forum

A monthly update of socio-economic developments in India by the
IHDS research community

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In this issue...

The India Human Development Survey (IHDS) continues to engage and inspire researchers throughout the world because of the vast array of data it offers through its spectrum of education, health, economy, family, and gender modules for both urban and rural samples across the country. In this edition, the IHDS newsletter focuses on two critical areas that define India’s socio-economic context—gender and caste.

  • The first paper contextualises women’s labour force participation with gender-based crime against women in India. Using data from the first wave of IHDS (2004-05), it argues that the likelihood of women working away from home is lower in areas where they face a high risk of sexual harassment. 

  • In the second paper, the authors highlight the challenges of undertaking a quantitative analysis of social identities by administering open-ended questions in large surveys. The author delineates an approach to building a caste nomenclature from open-ended questions in IHDS-II (2011-12) sampling Hindu households in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. 

  • Recent publications using IHDS
Research Findings Based on IHDS Data

Stigma of Sexual Violence and Women’s Decision to Work
Tanika Chakraborty, Anirban Mukherjee,
Swapnika Reddy Rachapalli, and Sarani Saha

This study is motivated by two disturbing evidences concerning women in India. On one hand, crime against women is on the rise while on the other, women’s labour force participation rate (WLFPR) has been declining over the last three decades. Using the first wave of IHDS data (2004–05), the authors estimate the extent to which the decline in WLFPR can be assigned to increasing instances of crime against women. They argue that an increase in crime against women increases the non-pecuniary costs of travelling to work, particularly in a traditional society marked by stigma against victims of sexual crimes. Their findings suggest that women are less likely to work away from home in regions where the perceived threat of sexual harassment against girls is higher. The estimate is robust to various sensitivity checks. Moreover, the deterrence effect of crime responds to the opportunity cost of work, on one hand, and the stigma cost of sexual crimes, on the other.

Tanika Chakraborty is an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Formerly, she worked at DIW, Berlin, and at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, after completing her PhD in Economics from Washington University, St Louis. Tanika’s research focuses on Labour and Development Economics. She is a Fellow at Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn, and the Global Labor Organization. Her research has featured in the Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organizations, World Development, and Economics of Education Review and Demography among others. Tanika has undertaken research projects funded by ICSSR, IDRC Canada, DFID UK, and UNICEF.

Anirban Mukherjee is Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Calcutta. Anirban received his BSc in Economics from Presidency College, Calcutta, MSc in Economics from University of Calcutta, and PhD from the Department of Economics, University of British Columbia (currently known as Vancouver School of Economics). Before joining University of Calcutta, he taught at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. His areas of research interest are institutional economics, political economics, development economics and economic history. His current research projects involve issues related to identity politics, gender disparity in the workplace, and effect of court quality on entrepreneurship.
Swapnika Reddy Rachapalli is a PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include international trade, growth, and development economics. Her current research focuses on understanding diffusion of knowledge across borders through the lens of international trade. Specifically, she examines learning by exporting wherein downstream ideas from foreign economies diffuse into the domestic economy through exporters of upstream intermediate inputs. Her other work examines international knowledge spillovers through the trade of technology embodied in imported products. She also works on growth- and development-related questions like measuring and explaining misallocation in the Indian agricultural sector. Prior to starting her PhD, she received a BSc and MSc in Economics from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
Sarani Saha is an Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Prior to joining IIT Kanpur, she obtained her PhD in Economics from University of California at Santa Barbara. She is currently a Fellow at the Global Labor Organization. Her research interests lie in the fields of labour economics, development economics, environmental economics, health economics and applied microeconomics. Her current works focus on issues related to effect of domestic violence on child health, role of awareness in health utilization outcomes and effect of court quality on entrepreneurship.
Caste Links Quantifying Social Identities Using Open-Ended Questions
Mathieu Ferry

This paper exposes the challenges faced by social scientists in the quantitative analysis of social identities measured through open-ended questions in large surveys. The apparent large diversity of responses enunciated demonstrates the complexity of self-identification, but it does not undermine the relevance of quantifying a latent social category. This paper discusses the author’s approach to building a caste nomenclature from open-ended questions in the Indian Human Development Survey (2011-2012), focusing on Hindu households in Uttar Pradesh. The paper starts by exposing the issues of such quantification, highlighting the colonial history with which it is strongly associated. Contrary to common belief, caste is far from being an uncontested institutionalised category and its statistical measure is highly criticized. Nonetheless, several arguments push for its quantification. The author describes his classification algorithm based on network analysis, hierarchical and manual clustering. He then suggests assessing the relevance of his classification from three aspects in this foundational work. First, indicators of homogeneity show homogeneous categories. Second, ‘gold standard’ comparison evaluates the effectiveness of the nomenclature. Finally, criterion validity tests whether the caste categories reflect selective dimensions of socio-economic status and ritual status. In doing so, the paper shows that the nomenclature in seven caste groups makes it possible to break with a one-dimensional hierarchical vision with which the caste social structure is often associated.

Figure: Empirical Diagram of the ‘Jati’ and ‘Sub-jati’ Network
Mathieu Ferry is a PhD candidate at the Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (Sciences Po) and he is affiliated to the Laboratoire de Sociologie Quantitative (GENES-CREST) in Paris, France. He is working on the social stratification of food practices and discourses in India, focusing mainly on meat consumption. In this regard, he analyses both quantitative (large-scale surveys) and qualitative (interviews) data. His research interests include inequality, food consumption, mixed methods and more broadly cultural aspects in the study of social stratification. He co-organizes a seminar on the sociology of inequalities in India at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris).
Recent Publications Using IHDS

  • Ferry, Mathieu “Caste links Quantifying Social Identities Using Open-ended Questions.” Accessed on June 11, 2019. Link.

  • Jayalakshmi, Rajeev and Srinivasan Kannan. “The Double Burden of Malnutrition: An Assessment of ‘Stunted Child and Overweight/Obese Mother (SCOWT) Pairs’ in Kerala Households.” Accessed on June 11, 2019. Link.

  • Desai, Sonalde and Omkar Joshi. “The Paradox of Declining Female Work Participation in an Era of Economic Growth.” Accessed on June 12, 2019. Link.
  • Suri, Shoba and Oommen C. Kurian. “Weighed Down by the Gains: India’s Twin Double Burdens of Malnutrition and Diseases.” Accessed on June 3, 2019. Link.

  • Venkatachalam, Ragupathy and Sunil Mitra Kumar “Causal Inference in Discrimination Using Observational Data: On Taste-based versus Statistical Discrimination.” Accessed on June 1, 2019. Link.

About IHDS
The India Human Development Survey (IHDS) is a nationally representative, multi-topic survey of 41,554 households in 1503 villages and 971 urban neighbourhoods across India. The first round of interviews was completed in 2004-05; data are publicly available through ICPSR. A second round of IHDS re-interviewed most of these households in 2011-12 (N=42,152) and data for the same can be found here.

IHDS has been jointly organised by researchers from the University of Maryland and the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi. Funding for the second round of this survey is provided by the National Institutes of Health, grants R01HD041455 and R01HD061048. Additional funding is provided by The Ford Foundation, IDRC and DFID.
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