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Hierarchy, Identity, and Collective Action

This research project explores the interaction between group identities and decisions to engage in collective action to secure access to public goods, such as education.

In large democracies such as India, inequality between social groups, though small by historical standards, remains significant. A major mechanism for social mobility has been the expansion of public services, especially schools, and this process of mobility has been accompanied by a hardening rather than a blurring of group identities. Individuals make collective action decisions as part of social identity groups, but since public goods such as schools are essentially local in character, access is determined by the combined behavior of all groups in a locality. Using a model of collective action applied to Indian census data from 1991-2001, this project puts forward a new conceptual framework which allows for integrating the geographical characteristics of local public goods with the role of identity in collective action.