India has about 4,300 ‘large dams’, and ranks third behind USA (6,600) and China (22,000) in dam construction. [Source: The Economist]

In a 2007 paper, Esther Duflo and Rohini Pande analyzed the effects of large irrigation dams in India. They compared the impact of dams in districts where they were built to districts that were located downstream to the dam. Their main findings were:

  1. Dams improve irrigation and agricultural production in districts located downstream to the dam, but have no significant impact in the district where the dam is built.
  2. In districts where dams are built, rural poverty increases. This increase is sharper than the fall in poverty in districts located downstream to the dam.
  3. The impact on poverty is a function of state institutions. (Districts with extractive institutions fare worse than other).

The paper has a lot of data compiled from novel data sources. For instance, consider the trends in dam construction collected from the World Registry of Large Dams, maintained by the International Commission on Large Dam (ICOLD):

“Between 1971 and 1999 the number of large dams quadrupled from 882 to 3,364 […] (46 percent of the districts had no dams in 1999). There was significant regional variation in dam construction […] Dam construction was rapid between the mid-1970s and late-1980s but slowed down considerably in the 1990s.”


The following maps illustrate the trend even better:

Source: http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/796

The paper also points out that dam construction in 1970 and 1999 was primarily concentrated in western India, with relatively little construction in north and north east. I was wondering if someone had data on small dam construction in the north east? (My guess is that large dam construction in the north east would be difficult due to geographical constraints, but there may be many small dams).

Source: Esther Duflo & Rohini Pande, 2007. “Dams,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(2), pp. 601-646, 05. (Click here for ungated access to a 2005 draft version of the paper)

Caste and Entrepreneurship in India

Laxmi Iyer, Tarun Khanna and Ashutosh Varshney in a new working paper analyze the trends in caste ownership of private, non-farm, enterprises in India. They find that SCs and STs continue to be under-representated and the share of private enterprises owned by them has hardly changed between 1990 and 2005.

View spreadsheet in new tab: http://goo.gl/qAYvs

Income Shares of the Top 1% in India and Other Countries

Anthony B. Atkinson, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez have a paper in the Journal of Economic Literature (Top Incomes in the Long Run of History) that makes a cross-country comparison of the share of incomes of the top 1% and top 0.1% and how it has changed between 1949 and 2005 that makes an interesting read.

Source: Atkinson, Anthony B., Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez. 2011. “Top Incomes in the Long Run of History.” Journal of Economic Literature, 49(1): 3–71| Data: http://goo.gl/EUDOW

Few years ago, Banerjee and Piketty analyzed the share of income of the top 1% in India between 1922 and 2000. Their main finding: income share of the the top 1% has declined over time, but is again on the rise. Here’s the all-important graph:

Source: Banerjee, Abhijit, and Thomas Piketty. 2005. “Top Indian Incomes, 1922–2000.” World Bank Economic Review, 19(1): 1–20.