Understanding Regional Economic Growth in India

Sachs, Jeffrey D.; Bajpai, Nirupam; Ramiah, Ananthi

This paper aims to understand the growth experiences of fourteen major states of India in the period 1980 to 1998. We use two measures of convergence, σ-convergence and ß-convergence to examine whether per capita income in the states have been converging or diverging. By both standards of convergence, India demonstrated overall divergence during the period 1980-98, as well as during both the pre-reform and post-reform sub-periods. Interestingly, the richer states experienced a degree of convergence during the post-reform period, while the poorer states did not. Divergence was most notable within the poorer group of states. As against the U.S. states, Japanese prefectures and the European regions, both India and China display no signs of conditional convergence much less unconditional convergence. We suggest four possible hypotheses: (1) the geographical differences are larger in India and China than in the United States, Europe, and Japan; (2) population movements in the United States, Europe, or Japan more readily arbitrage differences across regions; (3) policies of the national or regional governments prevented convergence, and (4) economic convergence is easier at higher levels of economic development than in China and India. A remarkable 82 percent of the cross-state variation in growth is explained by just the urbanization variable in India, and with no hint of any conditional convergence after controlling for the degree of urbanization. The regression estimate shows that a 10-percentage-point higher rate of urbanization is associated with 1.3 percentage points per year higher annual growth. We also offer some preliminary explanations for the unusual growth experiences of some states. We consider four such mysteries: (1) the mediocre growth of Kerala despite excellent social indicators; (2) the relatively fast growth of landlocked, and arid Rajasthan; (3) the improved growth performance of landlocked Madhya Pradesh; and (4) the poor growth performance of coastal Orissa.

Geographic Areas


More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth Institute
Center for International Development at Harvard University
CID Working Paper, 88
Published Here
September 25, 2009


This paper was prepared for the Asian Economic Panel meeting held in Seoul on October 25-26, 2001 and presented to the Prime Minister of India on December 25, 2001 in New Delhi. Published in Asian Economic Papers, vol. 1, no. 3 (Summer 2002), pp. 32-62.