During her year at CASBS, Rohini Somanathan will work on a book project that explores the role of the state in shaping identity choice and social mobility in India from the 1880s to the present day. In the colonial period, British administrators created elaborate compendiums of caste. These were used as a basis for designing India’s affirmative action program, an elaborate quota-based system of entry into politics, public employment and higher education. The project will critically study the classification of group disadvantage used by the Indian state and the incentives it created for the reporting and manipulation of identity. It will also compare the effects of affirmative action with those of large scale expansions in public schooling in determining the patterns of group inequality.
Somanathan is professor of economics at the Delhi School of Economics. Her research focuses on how social institutions interact with public policies to shape patterns of economic and social inequality. Within the broad area of development economics, she has worked on group identity and public goods, access to microfinance, child nutrition programs and environmental health. Related to her proposed project at CASBS is her recently edited volume Difference without Domination: Pursuing Justice in Diverse Democracies (University of Chicago Press, 2020). She is an elected fellow of the Econometric Society and the International Economic Association.