New Delhi: Research by academics Sam Asher, Kritarth Jha, Anjali Adukia, Paul Novosad and Brandon Tan has found that across India’s urban and rural areas, residential segregation – or segregated living based on community – is deeply entrenched. While cities are often believed to be more equitable spaces, they found that segregation based on both caste and religion in Indian cities is about as high as racial segregation in the US.
According to their data, 26% of Muslims in India live in areas that have more than 80% Muslim population, and 17% of Scheduled Castes live in areas that have more than 80% SC population. While segregation for SCs is about equally high in urban and rural areas, segregation of Muslims is higher in urban areas, the researchers found.
These residential segregations do not come without consequences. Not only do they point to divisions in social fabric, the researchers found that public services provided by the government are less likely to be found in neighbourhoods dominated by Muslims and SCs.
“This is true for nearly every service that we could measure: secondary schools, clinics and hospitals, electricity, water, and sewerage are all systematically worse in SC and Muslim neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods in the very same cities. The only exception was for urban primary schools, which are more common in urban SC neighborhoods (but less common in rural SC neighborhoods, and in both urban and rural Muslim neighborhoods). The differences
in service access are statistically significant and substantial,” the researchers state.
The effects of these structural inequalities, the researchers continue, are that children grow up with worse opportunities, thereby entrenching inequalities further. “In the average urban neighborhood with a low Muslim and SC share, young people on average get 9.2 years of schooling. In the same city, in a neighborhood with a 100% SC share, the average person gets 1.6 fewer years of education,” the study found.
“Children in Muslim neighborhoods fare even worse, getting 2.2 fewer years of schooling than children in non-marginalized neighborhoods,” it continues.
In neighbourhoods where marginalised groups are in a majority, all residents suffer from the lack of public services. “In neighborhoods that are majority SC and majority Muslim, all social groups are doing worse in terms of education, not just SCs and Muslims,” the study says.
The study, the researchers state, is based on data from 2011-13. “The results are not attributed to specific policies of any specific government, and due to the timing, say nothing about the policies of the current government or what has changed in the last decade.”