13th B.G.Kumar Lecture: Is India a Land of Opportunity?

delivered by Professor Kunal Sen

13th B.G. Kumar Lecture Is India a Land of Opportunity? delivered by Professor Kunal Sen

The recording of this lecture is available here.

Professor Kunal Sen delivers the 13th B.G. Kumar Lecture on 'Is India the Land of Opportunity?' at the Center for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. The lecture begins at 15:30 (IST) or 12:00 (UTC+2).

Professor Kunal Sen is the current Director of UNU-WIDER. His research is in the interface of international development and political economy.

His principal areas of research have been on inclusive growth, political economy, and the analysis of poverty and social exclusion in developing countries. His research in each of these areas has been internationally recognized and has had a strong impact on both academic research and on policy. Professor Sen has previously served as Chair (President) of the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS), one of the world’s leading academic societies on South Asian studies.


Social mobility — defined as the ability to move from a lower to a higher level of education or occupational status, or from a lower to a higher social class or income group — is the hope of economic development and the mantra of a good society. In this lecture, I will look at patterns and drivers of social mobility, and ask whether India is a land of opportunity, where all people should have a roughly equal chance of success regardless of the economic status or social status of the families into which they were born. First, I examine multigenerational educational and occupational mobility in India, using a nationally representative data set, the India Human Development Survey, that contains information about education and occupation for three generations.

I find that mobility has increased over generations for education, but not for occupation. I also find that there are stark differences across social groups, with individuals belonging to socially disadvantaged communities lagging behind in social progress. I next examine the drivers of mobility in rural India, with a focus on traditional institutions such as caste. I explore empirically how dominance of a particular social group (caste-religious groups) in the community impacts the educational and occupational mobility of individuals from different social groups in India. In particular, I explore whether mobility outcomes for individuals belonging to lower castes are impacted when they live in villages that are dominated by their own communities and when they live in villages dominated by other communities. I find strong evidence of the proximity and enclave effects for particular social groups in India.

For more information about the B.G. Kumar Lecture go here.