Econometrica: May 2022, Volume 90, Issue 3

Affirmative Action in India via Vertical, Horizontal, and Overlapping Reservations
p. 1143-1176

Tayfun Sönmez, M. Bumin Yenmez

Sanctioned by its constitution, India is home to the world's most comprehensive affirmative action program, where historically discriminated groups are protected with vertical reservations implemented as “set asides,” and other disadvantaged groups are protected with horizontal reservations implemented as “minimum guarantees.” A mechanism mandated by the Supreme Court in 1995 suffers from important anomalies, triggering countless litigations in India. Foretelling a recent reform correcting the flawed mechanism, we propose the 2SMG mechanism that resolves all anomalies, and characterize it with desiderata reflecting laws of India. Subsequently rediscovered with a high court judgment and enforced in Gujarat, 2SMG is also endorsed by Saurav Yadav v. State of UP (2020), in a Supreme Court ruling that rescinded the flawed mechanism. While not explicitly enforced, 2SMG is indirectly enforced for an important subclass of applications in India, because no other mechanism satisfies the new mandates of the Supreme Court.

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