The Panchayat is a system of village-level (Gram Panchayat), block-level (Panchayat Samiti), and district-level (Zilla Parishad) councils, with membership determined through local elections. Their main responsibility is the administration of local public goods. In 1992, the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution of India gave new powers to the Panchayats and provided that one third of the seats in all Panchayat councils, as well as one third of the Pradhan positions, must be reserved for women. In Andhra Pradesh, this act came into effect with the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj act of 1994, which mandates the elections for the seat of the ‘sarpanch’ or the head of the Gram panchayat. The first panchayat or GP election was held in March 1995. The next elections took place in July-August of 2001 and 2006. The term of the newly elected sarpanch starts immediately after each election.
Researchers use the Young life survey (YLS) dataset for Andhra Pradesh, a three-wave panel dataset (2002, 2007 and 2009) focused on childhood poverty spread over 6 rural districts of Andhra Pradesh. After ranking all the mandals/sentinel sites in these districts on the basis of a selected set of indicators of economic, human development and infrastructure, 20 mandals were sampled from these districts. YLS follows two cohorts of children: the first cohort consists of 2,000 children that were between 6 and 18 months of age in 2002; the second cohort consists of 1,000 children that were on average 8 years old in 2002. In particular, each mandal was divided in 4 geographical areas, and one village was randomly selected in each area. YLS then randomly sampled 100 households with a one-year old child and 50 households with an 8-year old child in each mandal. This paper focuses on the first cohort, to capture the impact of reservation during early childhood; these are 1,201 out of 2,000 children in rural districts for which full information on the 2001 and 2006 reservation was available. The YLS survey instrument consists of a child questionnaire, a household questionnaire, and a community questionnaire. The child questionnaire includes a number of cognitive/achievement tests and anthropometrics (height and weight) as well as sections focusing on child health and education outcomes.
The first round of YLS was conducted from September to December 2002, approximately one year after the sarpanch elected in 2001 came into power. The second round of data was collected from January to
July 2007, i.e. 6-12 months after the 2006 election. The third round of YLS was conducted from August
2009 to March 2010 with more than 90% of the survey completed by Dec 2009. The three GP elections hence result in three distinct treatment groups as a result of the rotation of the treatment: children in GPs that benefited from reservation from 1995 to 2001 constitute a first treatment group; children in GPs that benefited from reservation from 2001 to 2006 constitute a second treatment group; and children in GPs that benefited from reservation from 2001 to 2006 constitute a third group.
Given that the YLS data sampled children age 6 to 17 months in the fall of 2002, reservation had been in place approximately 6 years prior to their birth in the GPs reserved from 1995 to 2001. While they had limited direct exposure to reservation after birth, they may have continued to benefit from policies implemented during reservations. In addition, for the 12 to 17 months old, reservation was still in place when they were in utero. Children that were between 6 and 11 months old in the fall of 2002, on the other hand, had limited in utero exposure. In contrast, in the GPs reserved from 2001 to 2006, reservation starts almost at the same time or just before the children in the sample are born, and reservation was in place until they were about 5 years old. As it is likely that results of reservation on policy implementation was not
immediate, they may not have benefited much in utero or very early in life. Finally, in the GPs reserved from 2006 to 2011, reservation took place when children were older than 5, i.e. at the moment they were entering primary school age.
Hence there are potentially important differences between cohorts as well as and between GPs in terms of being affected by reservation. In particular, we focus on children aged 12 to 17 months in the first round of the YLS survey: they were exposed to reservation in utero if their GP was randomly selected to receive reservation in the 1995 election, while they only benefited from reservation after the age of five if their GP was randomly selected for the 2006 reservation. By comparing the outcomes of this cohort between 1995 and 2006 reservation GPs in 2009, we can hence draw lessons regarding the relative impact of being exposed to reservation in utero and very early in life. By the time the third round of the survey is conducted in 2009, the children in the sample are about 8 years old. This allows evaluating the longer-term impacts of the reservation policy, and in particular to analyze whether the differential timing of exposure leads to longer-term differences in learning and nutritional outcomes.
The main outcomes of interest are the test scores of the children in 2009. The 8-year old children were given the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) test, which measures the basic skills required for literacy acquisition in early years of schooling. It includes recognizing letters of alphabet, reading simple words, understanding sentences and paragraphs, and listening with comprehension. They were also given a math test with basic computing exercises appropriate for children of average age of 8 years, as well as the PPVT (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test), a popular test for assessing receptive vocabulary, often used as a proxy for cognition. Attrition rates are very low, only 3% of children originally sampled in 2002 are missing one or more test in 2009. Attrition is uncorrelated to 1995 or 2001 reservation. Researchers also use the election data, which is free and comes from the Andhra Pradesh State election commission, for the years 2001 and 2006. This data contains the reservation information for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and women. Because the election reservation is done on a rotation basis, this data implicitly contains the election reservation data for the 1995 election (the GPs which did not receive reservation in 2001 and 2006, must have received reservation in 1995).
Researchers estimate simple intent-to-treat regressions, comparing outcomes of children born in GPs with reserved seats for women between 1995 and 2001 with children born in GPs with seats reserved from 2006 to 2011. Given the randomized rotation of the reservation, the estimates measure the differential impacts of having been exposed to the 1995 reservation, as compared to the 2006 reservation. As such they capture the impact of exposure in utero and very early in the child’s life, as compared to after the age of 5. Child-level controls include child’s gender and age, mother’s age, ethnicity (dummy variables for scheduled tribe, scheduled caste and other backward caste) and education (highest grade level achievement and a dummy for no education), and the average number of adult females per household. Researchers also include mandal fixed effects to control for all the unobservables that are fixed at the mandal level to account for the fact that many policies affecting child outcomes are determined at the mandal level.