Is India Better off Today than 15 Years Ago? A Robust Multidimensional Answer


This paper provides a robust normative evaluation of the spectacular growth episode that India has experienced in the last 15 years. Specifically, the paper compares the evolution, between 1988, 1996 and 2001 of the distribution of several individual attributes on the basis of ethically robust dominance criteria. The individual attributes considered are real consumption (measured at the individual level), literacy rate, infant mortality and violent crime rates (all measured at the district levels). District level variables are interpreted as (local) public goods which, along with consumption, are assumed to contribute to individual well-being. The robust criteria used are generalizations, to more than two attributes, of the first and second order dominance criteria of Atkinson and Bourguignon (1982) and are known to correspond to the unanimity of utilitarian value judgements taken over a specific class of individual utility functions. The main result of the empirical analysis is that all utilitarian rankings of distributions of the four attributes who assume that individual utility functions satisfy the assumptions of second order dominance agree that India is better off in 2002 than in 1988 or 1996 but that these rankings disagree as to how to rank 1988 and 1996. Furthermore, if one removes crime from the list of attributes, the dominance is shown to apply steadily over the whole period.


Table of Contents


Presentation of the criteria

One-dimensional setting

Multidimensional setting

Empirical implementation


Statistical methodology

One-dimensional comparisons

Distributions of consumption

Distributions of district public goods

Multidimensional comparisons


Appendix A. Proof of the sufficiency part of proposition 3

Appendix B. Statistical Inference

Appendix C. Details of statistical tests