Child poverty and compulsory elementary education in India: policy insights from household data analysis

Author name: 
D.P. Chaudhri
Raghbendra Jha

Children ( under 15 years of age) growing up in poor and/or nutritionally deprived households also live with a number of layers of deprivations that stifle their freedom to actively participate in and benefit from elementary school education. Lack of health care, limited access to quality schooling and opportunity cost of participation in education are some of these layers. Human Development Report 2010, using Oxford University’s newly developed Multidimensional Poverty Index, adds more dimensions to poverty measures over and above those of the Indian Planning Commission’s (2009) new measure or absolute poverty used in this paper. These enrich our understanding but do not directly deal with children growing up in absolute poverty and non- participation in schooling. This issue can be meaningfully explored with household as the unit of analysis. The paper uses household level data for 2004–05 (NSS 61st Round) and 1993–94 (NSS 50th Round) for India and also major states to analyze these issues. We start with the size of child population, changing share of states and uneven demographic transition in India (particularly the movement in Total Fertility Rates across Indian states) during 1961–2001. Changes in the number of children and the household size in very-poor, poor, non-poor low income and non-poor high income households from 1993–94 to 2004–05 are analyzed within the cross-sections and also between the two cross-sections. Participation in education, and non-participation separated as child labor and Nowhere (neither in schools nor in labor force) by poverty status at the all-India and the state levels are reported and commented upon. Changes in magnitudes & proportions of children in poverty in India and across states during 1993–94 & 2004–05 are presented and the share of some states in these magnitudes is highlighted. The determinants of non-attendance in schools (i.e. child being in the labor force or ‘no-where’) for 5–14 year olds are analyzed using formal econometric models — Probit with binary variables and also Multinomial Logit Models. The results are robust and confirm our descriptive analysis. Finally, broad features of The Free and Compulsory Elementary Education Act, 2009 (Law w.e.f. April, 2010) are reported and linked to the policy implications of our empirical findings for meaningful implementation of the Elementary Education Law. Potential usefulness of Unique ID in delivery of child focused services and monitoring is also highlighted.

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