Research Spotlight

Capitalising on the Human Dividend

Over the weekend of August, 11-12, 2017 Professors Tarun Jain and Sisir Debnath of the Economics and Public Policy Area at the Indian School of Business (ISB) organised a two-day workshop that brought together researchers working on education, health and allied topics.

In attendance were leading academic researchers from institutions such as the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) Delhi, the Delhi School of Economics, Georgetown University, the University of British Columbia, the London School of Economics, in addition to those from Indian School of Business. Professor Sanjay Kallapur, Deputy Dean, Faculty and Research inaugurated the workshop. Hosted under the broad rubric of ‘human capital’, the papers in the workshop attempted to analyse the challenges and opportunities that lie in the way of developing countries, such as India, realising the promise of the demographic dividend.

Early proponents of human capital, like Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker, offered varying definitions of the term, but one widely cited textbook definition describes it as ‘the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labour so as to produce economic value’. This broad conceptualisation offered a capacious framework for accommodating a tremendous diversity of study themes. Addressing topics such as workplace networks and incentives, the targeting of vocational training, private provision of healthcare, the importance of pro-social motivations, caste, research and development of antibiotics, affirmative action and gender attitudes, the workshop showcased recent research into issues surrounding human resources and economic development, and the intersections thereof.

Conceived to allow greater engagement than is possible under a standard conference format, the workshop featured a small number of papers and participants, longer time slots to allow detailed exposition and discussion, and plenty of mingling over meals and refreshments. At the end of an intense yet friendly two days, over which the visiting researchers had the opportunity to present and discuss early-stage research, the workshop came to a close with Professor Sridhar Seshadri, Deputy Dean, Operations, delivering the vote of thanks.

The papers and presenters were as follows:
  1. ‘Identity, networks, and Incentives in the Workplace: A quasi field experiment in India’s manufacturing sector’ - Farzana Afridi (ISI Delhi)
  2. ‘Can referral improve targeting? Evidence from a vocational training experiment’ - Debayan Pakrashi (IIT Kanpur)
  3. ‘Effects of public financing of healthcare on private providers’ - Sisir Debnath (ISB)
  4. ‘Alcohol ban and crime: The ABC's of the Bihar Prohibition’ - Kalyani Chaudhuri, Natasha Jha, Mrithyunjayan Nilayamgode and Revathy Surya Narayana (ISB)
  5. ‘Pro-social motivation and incentives’ - Maitreesh Ghatak (LSE)
  6. ‘Are caste categories misleading? The relationship between gender and jati in three Indian states’ - Shareen Joshi (Georgetown University)
  7. ‘Rescuing the golden age of antibiotics: Can economics help avert the looming crisis?’
    - Mukesh Eswaran (University of British Columbia)
  8. ‘Identifying a good teacher: Evidence from public schools in Delhi’ - Deepti Goel (DSE)
  9. ‘Efficiency consequences of affirmative action in politics: Theory and evidence from India’ - Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay (ISI Delhi)
  10. ‘Can gender attitudes be changed? Evidence from a school-based experiment in India’ - Tarun Jain (ISB)

With inputs from Tarun Jain, Assistant Professor, and Mrithyunjayan Nilayamgode, Research Associate, ISB.