Social Indicators Research

, Volume 145, Issue 1, pp 389–413 | Cite as

Inequality of Opportunity in Indian Women

  • Akanksha ChoudharyEmail author
  • Gowtham T. Muthukkumaran
  • Ashish Singh
Original Research


Inequality of opportunity (IOp) in any society is defined as that part of overall inequality which arises from factors beyond the control of an individual (circumstances) such as parental education, caste, gender, religion etc. and is thus considered unfair and is against the meritocratic values of a society. Hence, it needs to be controlled and compensated. We estimate the IOp in economic outcomes among Indian women by using the nationally representative India Human Development Survey 2011–2012. We include parental education, caste, religion and region of birth as circumstances. The overall IOp in income ranges from 18–25% and 16–21% (of total income inequality) in urban and rural areas, respectively. The corresponding figures for consumption expenditure are 16–22% and 20–23% in urban and rural areas, respectively. We also estimate the partial contributions of the circumstances to the overall IOp. We find that the parental education is the most significant contributor to IOp in urban areas, whereas, region of birth is the most significant contributor to IOp in rural areas. Fortunately, findings imply that socially and culturally imbedded factors like caste and religion which are more persistent do contribute to the IOp, but, the largest contribution is due to factors like parental education and region which can be relatively easily tackled and addressed with policy interventions.


Inequality of opportunity Indian women Income Consumption expenditure India 



The authors would like to thank Ashish Dangi and Ram Kumar for providing suggestions and comments on earlier drafts.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SJM School of ManagementIndian Institute of Technology BombayPowai, MumbaiIndia

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