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Can Descriptive Representation Change Beliefs about a Stigmatized Group? Evidence from Rural India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 April 2014

Dartmouth College
Simon Chauchard is Assistant Professor of Dartmouth College (


Can descriptive representation for a stigmatized group change the beliefs and intentions of members of dominant groups? To address this question, I focus on quotas (reservations) that allow members of the scheduled castes to access key executive positions in India's village institutions. To measure the psychological effect of reservations, I combine a natural experiment with an innovative MP3-player-based self-administered survey that measures various beliefs and behavioral intentions. Results provide credible causal evidence that reservations affect the psychology of members of dominant castes. Even though villagers living in reserved villages continue to think poorly of members of the scheduled castes (stereotypes do not improve), reservation affects two other types of beliefs: perceived social norms of interactions and perceived legal norms of interactions. These changes in beliefs in turn appear to have far-reaching consequences for intercaste relations, as villagers’ discriminatory intentions also decrease under reservation.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2014 

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