Estimating Human Development Indices among Social Groups in India: Empirical Evidence on the Inequality Debate

Iyer, Sandhya S. (2016). 'Estimating Human Development Indices among Social Groups in India: Empirical Evidence on the Inequality Debate' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and social status are some of the common determinants of social exclusion and that tend to lock people in long term poverty traps. Such deprivations cause capability losses and hinder overall human development. Deprivation and unfreedoms in any society have social as well as economic dimension which not only overlap but also reinforce one another. Such deprivations often lead to capability losses and hinder overall human development. North and Barry (2000) explains how institutions are not usually set up to be socially or economically efficient. Instead they reflect the bargaining power of the social and political actors, and the predominant cultural forms tend to maintain the ‘institutional path dependence’.
The capability perspective views quality of life of a person on the basis of a person’s capabilities. Since capabilities are determinants of our functioning and beings in the society, often, the initial capabilities like health, bodily integrity, education and other such aspects of life are socially determined and restricted by an individual’s social positioning. The capability approach to a person's advantage is concerned with evaluating it in terms of his or her actual ability to achieve various valuable functionings as a part of living. While lowness of income can be considered to be the barometer to explain poor living conditions among group of individuals, it may not be the only factor causing collective unfreedoms In doing so, he argues being social excluded occurs through a process of alienation from economic, social, cultural and political processes among group of individuals as it pervades a range of social relations.
Capability deprivation relates to the importance of taking part in the life of the community, and ultimately to the Aristotelian understanding that the individual lives an inescapably “social” life. Collective capability failures, in turn also tend to limit living. Access of opportunities would then be determined by factors that are constitutively a part of capability deprivation as well as instrumentally a cause of diverse capability failures. The case for seeing social exclusion as an approach to poverty is one such way to explaining marginalisation of social groups (in the Indian case Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) is easy enough to establish within the general perspective of poverty as capability failure. Such an approach to poverty enables explaining historical variations in emphasizing the role of relational features in the deprivation of capability and thus in the experience of poverty. According to the capability approach, incomes remain important as they help determine what people can be or do; but there are many other factors besides incomes that are relevant to this, including the availability of public services, the extent and nature of civil society, a person’s own characteristics, and so on.
The presence of horizontal inequalities is complex as the tangible basal capabilities are intertwined within a social milieu which may not be captured singularly by socioeconomic factors (Stewart, 2010, 2013, 2013b). In particular, inequalities in cultural recognition and respect are important for the well-being and dignity of cultural and religious minorities, as well as in determining the ability of people from such minorities to function effectively. Inequalities in cultural recognition, by definition, relate to groups since cultural practices (religion, cultural norms, language, etc.) pertain to groups, though of course they affect individuals within groups.
The caste system in India further amplifies impact of poverty and inequality. We find segregation and exclusion on the basis of caste, while gender, ethnicity and race have always been important basis for discrimination and deprivation. The social dimension of poverty has resulted in unequal outcomes in the society. The basic features of differential levels and depth of deprivation across social groups throws light also on the ways in which there is ‘denial of equal access to opportunities imposed by certain groups of society upon others’. The embeddedness of social relations, i.e., the process through which individuals and groups are wholly or partially excluded from full participation in the society in which they live and the presence of hierarchies within them continues the dependence on traditional mental modes that operate at sub-optimal levels. Caste stratification impedes social mobility, hindering vertical and horizontal integration, similarly the marginalisation of Scheduled Tribes in India are also pockets of dominant forms of economic and social inequalities.
The paper present a larger national level comparative analysis of the quantum and impact of social inequalities on human development. The paper aims to provide quantitative estimates of Human Development Index (HDI) Index and Horizontal inequality {Group based coefficient of variation (GCOV), Group weighted Gini coefficient (GGINI), Group-weighted Theil (GTheil), Polarisation measures across social groups in India for the period 2009-12.
Estimations indicate vast inter-state variations in human development outcomes and the process of social exclusion of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes in India has been an outcome of disadvantages created historically, and in most stated got further deepened due to unequal social policies by governments across various States. The quantitative estimations indicate that while education outcomes are having lower deviations, income and health realted parameters continue to be vastly diverse across social groups. Further, the condition of the Scheduled Tribes have occupied the fringes of the societal space not only literally in the geographic sense but also socially and economically. The NSS survey 2004-05 has shown that the average level of consumption for the Adivasis (Tribals) stands at 70 percent of the total average. Incidence of poverty among the STs, education, health, their landlessness and employment status, wage relations and other indicators like access to agricultural inputs and consumer goods to show that they come worse off in practically every sphere. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that these wide disparities persist despite of the array of affirmative measures taken by the Government of India. This ‘exclusion’ is deeply entrenched in social, economic and political inequalities.
Key words: capabilities, horizontal inequalities, Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, social exclusion

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