Title: The Uneven Expansion of Electricity Supply in India: A Political-Economy Perspective
Authors: Steven T. Zech, Alfonso Martinez Arranz, Robert Thomson, Dharmalingam Arunachalam, Anand B. Rao
Discussant: Santosh Harish

We conducted the 10th Consumer Pyramids Household Survey Research Seminar on June 24 2021 at 4.30 PM IST.

About the Event

This paper is the first in a series of investigations into access to public goods in India. It concerns access to electricity. The authors use data from CPHS in conjunction with electoral data to try and explain patterns of access to electricity.

The primary variable of interest from CPHS is POWER_AVAILABILITY_IN_HOURS_PER_DAY, which measures the number of hours in a day for which electricity is available in the household.

The authors postulate three hypotheses that could explain changes to electricity access over time:

  1. Clientelism: Locations with small electoral margins of support for parties that control state-level governments experience the largest increases in electricity supply.
  2. Incrementalism: Locations surrounded by areas with relatively high-quality energy infrastructure experience the largest increases in electricity supply.
  3. Maximin: Locations with the poorest previous electricity supply experience the largest increases in electricity supply

The authors find very strong evidence for the Maximin hypothesis as well as reasonably strong evidence to support the Incrementalism hypothesis. They find very little evidence in support of the Clientelism hypothesis.

Future work

The authors are keen to expand on their work in two directions:

  1. Study data further back in time: The authors are considering exploring data sources before CPHS such as NSS data and the IHDS to investigate changes that took place before they could be captured in CPHS.
  2. Study access to other public goods in India such as access to drinking water, sanitation and education: The authors plan to explore other variables from CPHS on access to public goods at the household level. CPHS captures detailed information on household amenities including availability of water (in hours per day and days per week) and a toilet on the premises of the household. CPHS also captures detailed information on individuals including their levels of literacy and educational attainment.

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