The Competing State: The Individual Level Consequences of Private Education in India
Emmerich Davies

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

Public expenditure on primary education in India has tripled since 1990. Since 2004, the Government of India has built an average of 200 new government schools per district, or about 20 schools per district per year. At the same time, Indian households are increasingly turning to private and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for education. Approximately 35 percent of students attended a private school in 2014, nearly a doubling of private school enrollment since 2003. What is most striking about this move away from government provided education is that while it was previously an upper and middle class phenomenon, India’s poor have also begun to abandon government education. Citizens are choosing to “exit” state services and turn to private schools for education. My research asks two questions of this phenomenon. First, where has this exit been most pronounced and why? Second, what have been the political effects of this exit? I rely on a variety of approaches to answer these questions. First, I constructed a dataset of private school expansion since 1990 across India. Second, I fielded a “downstream experiment” on households that were entered into a private school voucher lottery seven years ago. Finally, I augment these two approaches with interviews with individual households, village-level politicians, and state-level education bureaucrats to also understand the mechanisms underlying exit from the state. Through this, I hope to understand the effects of private education outside the classroom, particularly in understanding the role of government services in constructing citizenship and political participation. Using India as a research site, I also hope to draw insights for other countries experiencing similar government school exit.
About Emmerich Davies
Emmerich Davies is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from Stanford University and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. His research looks at the political impacts of education privatization in India. Additionally, he is working on a project with Professor Tulia Falleti on political participation in Bolivia after the left turn. His broader research interests encompass political economy in the post market-oriented reform era. Prior to beginning his graduate studies, Emmerich worked as a research associate for the Centre for Microfinance and Jameel Poverty Action Lab in Kolkata on a series of randomized evaluations on microfinance.

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