This 2008 paper (pdf), titled Affirmative Action in Education: Evidence From Engineering College Admissions in India, is by Marianne Bertrand (University of Chicago), Rema Hanna (New York University), and Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard University). Its methodology and key conclusions have been summarized by the authors (along with Sudha Krishnan) in an op-ed in Mint. Here's the abstract (with bold emphasis added by me):
Many countries mandate affirmative action in university admissions for traditionally disadvantaged groups. Little is known about either the efficacy or costs of these programs. This paper examines affirmative action in engineering colleges in India for "lower-caste" groups. We find that it successfully targets the financially disadvantaged: the marginal upper-caste applicant comes from a more advantaged background than the marginal lower-caste applicant who displaces him. Despite much lower entrance exam scores, the marginal lower-caste entrant does benefit: we find a strong, positive economic return to admission. These findings contradict common arguments against affirmative action: that it is only relevant for richer lower-caste members, or that those who are admitted are too unprepared to benefit from the education. However, these benefits come at a cost. Our point estimates suggest that the marginal upper-caste entrant enjoys nearly twice the earnings level gain as the marginal lower-caste entrant. This finding illustrates the program's redistributive nature: it benefits the poor, but costs resources in absolute terms. One reason for this lower level gain is that a smaller fraction of lower-caste admits end up employed in engineering or advanced technical jobs. Finally, we find no evidence that the marginal upper-caste applicant who is rejected due to the policy ends up with more negative attitudes towards lower castes or towards affirmative action programs. On the other hand, there is some weak evidence that the marginal lower-caste admits become stronger supporters of affirmative action programs.
The "one Indian state" which provided the data on its engineering students is unspecified; but it clearly had OBC reservation for its engineering colleges in 1996. Not only that, we also know this about the state:
In the state-year we study, a total of 2,643 seats were available, with 2,054 seats open to the reservations policy; the remainder were payment seats not covered by the policy. The quotas were determined by the distribution of castes in the state: there was a 16 percent reservation for the Scheduled Castes, a 21 percent reservation for the Scheduled Tribes, and a 14 percent reservation for the Other Backward Castes, for a total of 51 percent of seats reserved.< /p>
Okay, here's my bleg: Which state might this be? When did this state start implementing OBC reservation?
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Update: Swarup has posted links to (and the abstracts of) two papers by Nishith Prakash of the University of Houston; one of them examines the role of political reservation (in the form of electoral constituencies that are reserved for SC and ST) in reducing poverty, and the other is on how effective SC/ST reservation in (public sector) jobs has been in benefiting the intended beneficiaries. Both look interesting, but I haven't had a chance to go through them (the technical details appear forbidding!). Here's Prakash's website, where he has listed several other papers on affirmative action policies in India.