Media Coverage

The Redistributive Effects of Political Reservation for Minorities: Evidence from India

Political reservation in India: The effect on poverty - Ideas for India, Dec 10, 2012 *LINK*

The redistributive effects of political reservation for minorities in India. | - (July 26, 2012) *LINK*

Abstract: Affirmative action policies in India, which give preferential treatment to historically disadvantaged minority groups, are extremely controversial. Do they correct one injustice by creating another? This column looks at the effects of ‘political reservation’ – quotas for representatives from certain ethnic backgrounds. It finds that the effects depend on the group being given preferential treatment.

Education Policies and Practices: What have we Learnt so far and the Road Ahead?

Give incentives to improve education quality in state: Report - Times of India, June 25, 2012 *PDF*

New IGC report: Provide incentives to improve education quality in Bihar - India at LSE, June 26, 2012 *LINK*

Education in Bihar: Still a long road ahead- Ideas for India, Sept 7, 2012 *LINK*

Cycling to School: Increasing High School Enrollment for Girls in Bihar

Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna has caught the attention of many policy makers across countries and within India. Our work has been cited in The Times of India, Hindustan Times and Prabhat Khabar in India.

Video Presentation at LSE  during IGC Growth Week *LINK*

Coverage in IGC Newsletter (Video and Text) *LINK*

"Free Bikes and Girls' Education", featured on Greg Mankiw's (Professor at Harvard University) Blog, March 20, 2012 *LINK*

"A Tool to Educate Girls in Poor Countries: BICYCLES", featured on Xavier Sala-i-Martin's (Professor at Columbia University) Blog, March 23, 2012 *LINK*

"The Bike Path to Secondary Education", featured on UConn Today, May 14, 2012 *LINK*

The Returns to English Language Skills in India

English & India

English & India | Business Standard by Sanjaya Baru | New Delhi (August 15, 2011)

At Oxford in 1931 Mahatma Gandhi was asked, “How far would you cut India off from the Empire?” He replied: “From the Empire, completely; from the British nation not at all, if I want India to gain and not to grieve.”

India’s struggle for freedom, which was also a “national” movement for the creation of an Indian Republic on the Indian subcontinent, sought the end of British rule, but not the end of the use of the English language.

No language spoken by the pre-European inhabitants of this vast subcontinent could become the language of communication and governance across the length and breadth of India. So English survived and thrived. To be sure, the English language – or the many variants of it – that is spoken in India, through many and varied tongues, is not the English language that the British left behind. It is not a language that many would easily comprehend in England!

Yet, like Australian English, American English and Singaporean English, there is an Indian English. Indeed, a Bengali English, a Tamil, Telugu, Malayali, Punjabi and many other variants of English that would often require translation when two Indians converse. Every Bengali would know what exactly “pheesh” means, but no Malayali would “zimbly” understand it! I knew exactly what my English teacher meant when he said “Jed”, but would you?

In what manner did Gandhiji believe India would “gain” from a continued association with Britain? Clearly, Gandhiji had a good appreciation of what was happening in the world and what was likely to happen as the 20th century progressed. He, like Jawaharlal Nehru and many other leaders of the Indian national movement, had benefitted personally in terms of his own professional training in various institutions in Britain. Gandhiji had grasped the essence of an idea that Sir Winston Churchill was to articulate much later when the latter said, “the empires of the future are the empires of the mind.”

Over the years, even though Britain vacated India’s “land”, it has succeeded in capturing the Indian “mind” thanks to the continued and, indeed, growing popularity of the English language.

The rise of India’s service sector and its knowledge-based economy, especially software, software services, information technology and IT-enabled services, has stepped up sharply the demand for English language education. Studies have shown that a growing number of Indians, from across the subcontinent, attach value to some basic understanding of English as a means of securing good employment. Consequently, the demand for English language education has increased sharply across the country.

This fact has been clearly established by a detailed study conducted by Mehtabul Azam (World Bank), Aimee Chin (University of Houston and National Bureau of Economic Research) and Nishith Prakash (Dartmouth College and Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, University College, London), on “The Returns to English-Language Skills in India” (available at

The authors conclude, from their analysis of data collected for the India Human Development Survey, 2005 conducted by researchers at the National Council for Applied Economic Research, New Delhi, and the University of Maryland, USA, that: “… being fluent in English (compared to not speaking any English) increases hourly wages of men by 34%, which is as much as the return to completing secondary school and half as much as the return to completing a Bachelor’s degree. Being able to speak a little English significantly increases male hourly wages 13%... More experienced and more educated workers receive higher returns to English. The complementarity between English skills and education appears to have strengthened over time.”

The study also shows that wages are on average 32 per cent higher for men who speak fluent English and 13 per cent higher for men who speak a little English relative to men who speak no English. For women, the average returns are 22 per cent for fluent English and 10 per cent for a little English.

One consequence of this preference for English language skills in the market is that it has encouraged migration of English-speaking students from regions that have good teaching institutions, at the school and college level, but where local employment opportunities may not be easily available owing to inadequate development, to regions where the demand is high but local skills are inadequate.

Thus, for example, the north-eastern states of India, especially Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur, have good English-language teaching capabilities, but inadequate employment opportunity in the services or manufacturing sector. Consequently, a lot of young people from the north-east region have migrated to cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad securing employment in the services sector, especially in the hospitality sector where knowledge of English language is a must. Many hotels and fancy restaurants in these cities employ smart young men and women from the north-east.

The last bastion of political resistance to English was the Hindi heartland. In the mid-1990s when I wrote an editorial comment in The Times of India titled “English is an Indian Language”, Mulayam Singh Yadav and many other north Indian politicians remonstrated about it. Merely a decade later the use of English is spreading rapidly through the entire heartland.

Language shapes attitudes. The accessibility of English and its growing popular use at home have embedded India firmly in the world of the English-speaking people. To add to this, the growing prosperity of overseas Indians and people of Indian origin living across the English-speaking world and their emotional and economic re-integration into a rising India have helped create a global diaspora of the English-speaking India. Writers like Amitav Ghosh self-consciously reach out to this audience by writing novels in English which tug at the emotions that bind a global community of Indians.

Six decades ago, the sun did set on the British empire. Six decades later, it seems, the sun will never set on the world of the English-speaking people, of whom Indians and people of Indian origin will constitute the largest group.

English skills raise wages for some, not all, in India

It pays to speak English | - English skills raise wages for some, not all, in India (May 26, 2010)

Does it pay to speak English? This column presents evidence from India that being fluent in English increases the hourly wages of men by 34% and of women by 22%. But the effects vary. Returns are higher for older and more educated workers and lower for less educated, younger workers, suggesting that English is becoming a complement to education.

Indian? Want to prosper? Learn English

Financial Times - Indian? Want to prosper? Learn English (March 30, 2010)

"Not that surprising, but this is one of the papers emerging from the Royal Economic Society conference I’m attending this week. The effect is large, especially for men: hourly wages up by a third" - Tim Harford

Being fluent in English increases the hourly wages of men in India by 34% and of women by 22% relative to people who speak no English. The return to English language skills for men is as much as the return to completing secondary school and half as much as the return to completing an undergraduate degree.

But for younger entrants to the Indian labour market, getting these high returns to English language skills is increasingly reliant on having other types of education as well. These are among the findings of research by Nishith Prakash and colleagues, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2010 annual conference.

Using data from the India Human Development Survey, the study finds that while older workers of whatever education level typically earn higher wages from speaking English, among younger workers only the better educated are likely to earn a significant wage premium.

In India – and many other developing countries – there is considerable debate over whether to promote the local language in schools or a more globally accepted language, such as English. The authors note that while the local language might make primary schooling more accessible and strengthen national identity, it may reduce economic opportunities because of the special role of English in the global economy.

In India, it pays - literally - to speak English

Daily News & Analysis- Leading Newspaper in India

Language chauvinism is rampant in Indian political circles — be it Hindi, Marathi or Tamil — and some politicians have even called for a ban on the use of English on the ground that it is “elitist”. However, a path-breaking research study by a team of developmental economists has established that English-language proficiency among Indian workers leads to higher hourly wage earnings.

The research conducted by Dr Nishith Prakash, post-doctoral research associate at the Charles H Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University and Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labour in Bonn; Dr Mehtabul Azam at the World Bank; and Dr Aimee Chin at the University of Houston, quantifies for the first time in an Indian context, the returns to English-language skills.

The findings have implications for language policy in a linguistically diverse country like India, says Dr Prakash. In an interview to DNA, he points out that knowing the returns to English would help individuals and policy makers make decisions about how much to invest in English skills.

DNA: Opinion - In India, it pays - literally - to speak English (August 21, 2010) by Venkatesan Vembu