Working Paper
The impact of affirmative action in India and the United States

A systematic literature review

This paper provides a systematic review of quantitative literature investigating the success of affirmative action policies in addressing socio-economic inequalities between ethnic groups in education and employment. We focus on two of the most influential national experiences: caste-based affirmative action in India and race-based affirmative action in the United States.

We find that affirmative action has been successful in extending the opportunities available to target groups in both countries, with the Indian reservation policy showing stronger effects on the representation of minorities than non-quota measures in the US.

Evidence on the impact of affirmative action on the performance and actual achievements of target groups is more diverse. This is primarily due to mixed findings regarding the prevalence of academic mismatch among students admitted via affirmative action, which has been investigated primarily in the US context.

Evidence on the spillover effects of affirmative action to non-target groups is scarce but points to negative replacement effects among over-represented groups.

Supplementary material

Online Appendix