Skip to main content Accessibility help

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


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.

Corresponding author
Simon Chauchard is Assistant Professor of Dartmouth College (
Hide All
Allport, G. W. 1954. The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Ajzen, I., and Fishbein, M. 2005. “The Influence of Attitudes on Behavior.” In The Handbook of Attitudes, eds. Albarracín, D., Johnson, B. T., and Zanna, M. P.. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Angrist, Joshua D., and Jörn-Steffen Pischke. 2008. Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Asch, S. 1958. “Effects of Group Pressure upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgments.” In Readings in Social Psychology, eds. Macoby, E. E. et al. 3rd ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 174–83.
Bardhan, Pranab, Mookherjee, Dilip and Parra Torrado, Monica L.. 2010. “Impact of Political Reservations in West Bengal Local Governments on Anti-Poverty Targeting.” Journal of Globalization and Development 1 (1): 138.
Baviskar, B. S. 2009. “Including the Excluded: Empowering the Powerless through Panchayati Raj in Maharashtra.” In Inclusion and Exclusion in Local Governance: Field Studies from Rural India, eds. Baviskar, B. S. and Mathew, George. Sage: New Delhi.
Baviskar, B. S., and Mathew, George, eds. 2009. Inclusion and Exclusion in Local Governance: Field Studies from Rural India. Sage: New Delhi.
Beaman, Lori, Chattopadhyay, Raghabendra, Duflo, Esther, Pande, Rohini, and Topalova, Petia. 2009. “Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?Quarterly Journal of Economics 124 (4): 14971540.
Besley, Tim, Pande, Rohini, and Rao, Vijayendra. 2004. “The Politics of Public Good Provision: Evidence from Indian Local Governments.” Journal of the European Economics Association Papers and Proceedings 2 (2–3): 416–26.
Besley, Tim, Pande, Rohini, and Rao, Vijayendra. 2005. “Participatory Democracy in Action: Survey Evidence from India.” Journal of the European Economics Association Papers and Proceedings 3 (2–3): 648–57.
Bhavnani, Rikhil. 2009. “Do Electoral Quotas Work after They Are Withdrawn? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in India.” American Political Science Review 103 (1): 2335.
Bhushan Singh, Shashi 2009. “Devolution of Power through Panchayats in Rajasthan.” In Inclusion and Exclusion in Local Governance: Field Studies from Rural India, eds. Baviskar, B. S. and Mathew, George. Sage: New Delhi.
Blanchard, F. A., Crandall, C. S., Brigham, J. C., and Vaughn, L. A.. 1994. “Condemning and Condoning Racism: A Social Context Approach to Interracial Settings.” Journal of Applied Psychology 79: 993–97.
Chattopadhyay, R., and Duflo, Esther. 2004. “Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India.” Econometrica 72 (5): 2004.
Chauchard, Simon. 2013. “Using MP3 Players in Surveys: The impact of a Low-Tech Self Administration Mode on Reporting of Sensitive Attitudes.” Public Opinion Quarterly 77 (S1): 220–31.
Chauchard, Simon. N.d. Why Representation Matters: The Meaning of Ethnic Quotas in Rural India. Forthcoming.
Chandra, Kanchan. 2004. Why Ethnic Parties Succeed? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chin, Aimee, and Prakash, Nishith. 2011. “The Redistributive Effects of Political Reservation for Minorities: Evidence from India.” Journal of Development Economics 96: 265–77.
Cialdini, R. B., Kallgren, C. A., and Reno, R. R.. 1991. “A Focus Theory of Normative Conduct: A Theoretical Refinement and Reevaluation of the Role of Norms in Human Behavior.” In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, ed. Zanna, M. P.. Vol. 24. New York: Academic Press, 201–34.
Coser, Lewis 1956. The Functions of Social Conflict. New York: Free Press.
Crandall, C. S., and Stangor, C.. 2005. “Conformity and Prejudice.” In On the Nature of Prejudice: Fifty Years after Allport, eds. Dovidio, J. F., Glick, P., and Rudman, L. A.. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Dasgupta, N., and Asgari, S.. 2004. “Seeing is Believing: Exposure to Counterstereotypical Women Leaders and Its Effect on the Malleability of Automatic Gender Stereotyping.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 40: 642–58.
Dasgupta, N., and Rivera, L. M.. 2008. “When Social Context Matters: The Influence of Long-Term Contact and Short-Term Exposure to Admired Outgroup Members on Implicit Attitudes and Behavioral Intentions.” Social Cognition 26: 5466.
Deliege, Robert. 1999. The Untouchables of India. Oxford: Berg Publishers.
Devine, Patricia G. 1989. “Stereotypes and Prejudice: Their Automatic and Controlled Components.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56 (1): 518.
Duflo, Esther. 2005. “Why Political Reservations.” Journal of the European Economic Association 3 (2–3): 668–78.
Dunham, Yarrow & J, J. Degner. 2010. “Origins of intergroup bias: Developmental and social cognitive research on intergroup attitudes.” European Journal of Social Psychology 40: 16.
Dunning, Thad. 2008. “Improving Causal Inference: Strengths and Limitations of Field Experiments.” Political Research Quarterly 61 (2): 282–93.
Dunning, Thad. 2010. “Do Quotas Promote Ethnic Solidarity? Field and Natural Experimental Evidence From India.” Working paper, Department of Political Science, Yale University.
Dunning, Thad, and Nilekani, Janhavi. 2013. “Ethnic Quotas and Political Mobilization: Caste, Parties, and Distribution in Indian Village Councils.” American Political Science Review 107 (1): 3556.
Fazio, Russel H., Jackson, Joni R., Dunton, Bridget C., and Williams, Carol J.. 1995. “Variability in Automatic Activation as an Unobtrusive Measure of Racial Attitudes: A Bona Fide Pipeline?Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69 (6): 1013–27.
Fenno, Richard. 2003. Going Home: Black Representatives and Their Constituencies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fiske, Susan T. 1998. “Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination.” In The Handbook of Social Psychology, eds. Fiske, Susan T., Gilbert, Daniel, and Lindzey, Gardner. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Gay, Claudine. 2001.“The Effect of Black Congressional Representation on Political Participation.” American Political Science Review 95 (3): 589602.
Gay, Claudine. 2002.“Spirals of Trust: The Effect of Descriptive Representation on the Relationship between Citizens and their Government.” American Journal of Political Science 46 (4): 717–33.
Hajnal, Zoltan. 2001. “White Residents, Black Incumbents, and a Declining Racial Divide.” American Political Science Review 95 (3): 603–17.
Hajnal, Zoltan. 2005. Changing White Attitudes toward Black Political Leadership. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Harmon, Thomas, Turner, Charles F., Rogers, Susan M., Eggleston, Elizabeth, and Li, Sheping. 2009. “Impact of T-ACASI on Survey Measurements of Subjective Phenomena.” Public Opinion Quarterly 73 (2): 255–80.
Hewstone, M. 1994. “Revision and Change of Stereotypic Beliefs.” European Review of Social Psychology 5: 69109.
Hoff, Karla, and Pandey, Prienka. 2004. “Beliefs Systems and Durable Inequalities: An Experimental Investigation of Indian Caste.” World Bank Research Working Paper 3351. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Horowitz, Donald L. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Iyer, Lakshmi, Mani, Anandi, Mishra, Prachi, and Topalova, Petia. 2011. “The Power of Political Voice: Women's Political Representation and Crime in India.” Unpublished manuscript.
Jaffrelot, Christophe. 2003. India's Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Low Castes in North Indian Politics. Delhi: Permanent Black.
Jaffrelot, Christophe & Kumar, Sanjay. 2009. Rise of the Plebeians? The Changing Face of Indian Legislative Assemblies. Routledge: New Delhi.
Jansenius, Francesca. 2013. Power, Performance and Bias: Evaluating the Electoral Quotas for Scheduled Castes in India. Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley.
Jeffrey, Craig, Jeffery, Patricia, and Jeffery, Roger. 2008. “Dalit Revolution? New Politicians in Uttar Pradesh, India.Journal of Asian Studies 67 (4): 1365–96.
Kapur, Devesh, Prasad, Chandra Bhan, Pritchett, Lant, and Babu, D Shyam. 2010. “Rethinking Inequality: Dalits in Uttar Pradesh in the Market Reform Era.” Economic and Political Weekly XLV (35): 3949.
Kish, Leslie. 1965. Survey Sampling. New York: Wiley.
Krishna, Anirudh. 2003. “What Is Happening to Caste? A View from Some North Indian Villages.” Journal of Asian Studies 62 (4): 1171–93.
Krishna, Anirudh. 2004. Active Social Capital: Tracing the Roots of Development and Democracy. New York: Columbia University Press.
Kumar, Narender, and Rai, Manoj. 2005. Dalit Leadership in Panchayats: A Comparative Study of Four States. New Dehli: Indian Institute of Dalit Studies.
Kunda, Z., and Oleson, K. C.. 1997. “When Exceptions Prove the Rule: How Extremity of Deviance Determines the Impact of Deviant Examples on Stereotypes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72: 965–79.
Kuran, T. 1995. Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Levi, M. 1988. Of Rule and Revenue. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Levi, M., and Sacks, A.. 2007. Legitimating Beliefs: Concepts and Indicators. Cape Town: Afrobarometer.
Levi, M., Tyler, T. R., and Sacks, A.. 2009. “The Reasons for Compliance with the Law.” In Understanding Social Action, Promoting Human Rights, eds. Goodman, R., Jenks, D., and Woods, A.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Maass, A., and Arcuri, L.. 1992. “The Role of Language in the Persistence of Stereotypes.” In Language, Interaction, and Social Cognition, eds. Semin, G. R. & Fiedler, K.. London: Sage.
Macrae, C. Neil, Hewstone, Miles, and Griffiths, R. G.. 1993. “Processing Load and Memory for Stereotype-Based Information.” European Journal of Social Physiology 23 (1): 7787.
Macwan, Martin, Davenport, Christian, Stam, Allen et al. 2010. Understanding untouchability: A comprehensive study of practices and conditions in 1589 villages. RFK Center for Justice and Human rights.
Mansbridge, Jane. 1999. “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes.’Journal of Politics 61: 628–57.
Marschall, Melissa, and Ruhil, Anirudh. 2007. “Substantive Symbols: The Attitudinal Dimension of Black Political Incorporation in Local Government.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (1): 1733.
Marschall, Melissa, and Shah, Paru. 2007. “The Attitudinal Effects of Minority Incorporation: Examining the Racial Dimensions of Trust in Urban America.” Urban Affairs Review 42 (May): 629–58.
Mathew, George, ed. 2000. Status of Panchayati Raj in the State and Union Territories of India. Delhi: Institute for Social Sciences.
Moreno, K. N., and Bodenhausen, Galen V.. 1999. “Resisting Stereotype Change: The Role of Motivation and Attentional Capacity in Defending Social Beliefs.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 2 (1): 516.
Narula, Smita. 1999. Broken People: Caste Violence against Untouchables. New York: Human Rights Watch.
Olzak, Susan. 1990. “The Political Context of Competition: Lynching and Urban Racial Violence, 1882–1914.” Social Forces 69 (2): 395421.
Pai, Sudha. 2002. Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution: The Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Sage.
Paluck, Elizabeth L. 2009. “Reducing Intergroup Prejudice and Conflict Using the Media: A Field Experiment in Rwanda.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96: 574–87.
Paluck, Elizabeth L., & Green, Donald P.. 2009. “Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Critical Look at Evidence from the Field and the Laboratory.” Annual Review of Psychology 60; 339–67.
Paluck, E. L., & Shepherd, H. 2012. “The salience of social referents: A field experiment on collective norms and harassment behavior in a school social network.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103: 899915.
Pande, Rohini 2003. “Can Mandated Political Representation Provide Disadvantaged Minorities Policy Influence? Theory and Evidence from India.” American Economic Review 93: 1132–51.
Petersen, Roger. 2002. Understanding Ethnic Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pettigrew, Thomas F. 1998. “Intergroup Contact Theory.” Annual Review of Psychology 49: 6585.
Pettigrew, Thomas F., and Tropp, L. R.. 2006. “A Meta-Analytic Test of Intergroup Contact Theory.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90: 751–83.
Phillips, Anne. 1995. The Politics of Presence. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Purohit, B. R., Chaturvedi, Arun, and Lodha, Sanjay. 2002. “Status of Panchayats in Rajasthan.” In Dynamics of the New Panchayati Raj System in India, ed. Palanithurai, Ganapathi. Vol. II. New Delhi: Concept Publication.
Shah, Ghanshyam, Mander, Harsh, Thorat, S. K., Deshpande, Satish, and Baviskar, Amita. 2006. Untouchability in Rural India. New Delhi: Sage.
Sherif, M. 1966. In Common Predicament: Social Psychology of Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
Stangor, C., Sechrist, G. B., and Jost, J. T.. 2001. “Changing Racial Beliefs by Providing Consensus Information.” Personality and Social Psychological Bulletin 27: 484–94.
Talaska, Cara, Fiske, Susan and Chaiken, Shelly. 2008. “Legitimating Racial Discrimination: Emotions, Not Beliefs, Best Predict Discrimination in a Meta-Analysis.” Social Justice Research 21: 263–96.
Tropp, L. R., and Pettigrew, T. F.. 2004. “Intergroup Contact and the Central Role of Affect in Intergroup Prejudice.” In The Social Life of Emotion: Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction, eds. Tiedens, L. Z. and Leach, C. W.. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tourangeau, Roger, and Smith, Tom W.. 1996. “Asking Sensitive Questions: The Impact of Data Collection Mode Question Format, and Question Context.” Public Opinion Quarterly 60 (2): 275304.
Vij, Shivam 2010. “An Election in Matsura.” The Caravan, August 1.
Weber, Renee, and Crocker, Jennifer. 1983. “Cognitive Processes in the Revision of Stereotypic Beliefs.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 45 (5): 961–77.
Weiner, Myron. 2001. “The Struggle for Equality: Caste in Indian Politics.” In The Success of India's Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Williams, Melissa. 1998. Voice, Trust, and Memory: Marginalized Groups and the Failings of Liberal Representation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Yadav, Anumeha. 2010As Auditors Come Calling on NREGA, the Sarpanches Are Fleeing Rajasthan.” Tehelka 7 (36), September 11.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Chauchard Supplementary Material

 PDF (604 KB)
604 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed