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– S.J. Nanda, Programme Officer

In determining the nature and intensity of economic growth, several factors play different roles—individually and by interaction—at the macro and micro level; so, understanding the exact nuances behind phenomena is tricky. The causal relationship between women’s literacy and overall economic growth at state or district level is explained in different ways. One explanation is that the effect of women’s literacy leads to better education of children and, thereby, ensures an economically productive population. Another is that women’s literacy has a direct correlation with improved human capital, expressed in the increased proportion of women receiving technical education and finding employment in technical sectors. These causal relationships may then explain economic growth at micro level (household) as well as at macro level (province or district). Therefore, the web of relationships between economic growth and human resource capabilities is complex.


Let us now try to disentangle this web in terms of women’s literacy and technical education taking the case of the North–South divide in India. When economic growth is measured by certain variables (like per capita net state domestic product and proportion of rural poverty), the test of causality follows a specific line of inquiry. The role of women’s literacy and participation in technical education in creating human capital and, thereby, economic growth can be tested by differentials between states. The authors of The Paradox of India’s North–South Divide: Lessons from the States and Regions compare the data on women’s literacy and proportion of technical graduates mainly between TN and UP. An observation of 15% lower level of female literacy in UP than TN, and as high as five times lower proportion of technical graduates, seems to have had a major impact on human capital. This might have led UP to achieve lower economic growth than TN.


However, this logic may not necessarily be that linear when certain demographic differentials between these two states and other states of India are examined. The denominator—that is, population—of UP (190 million) is almost three times that of TN (7 crore). The population density is 828 persons per sq km in UP but 555 persons per sq km in TN. Also, UP has a much larger geographic area (2,410,411 sq km) than TN (130,058 sq km) with hilly topography of UP compared to TN might accrue a disadvantaged situation for governance options.


Hence it leaves questions for further disaggregate and multivariate analysis to determine the sole or interactive effect of female literacy and technical education of TN and other south Indian states in explaining the economic growth than UP and other northern states of India.

Post Author: Public Affairs Centre