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Evaluating the Social Orientation of India’s Integrated Child Development Services (Anganwadi) Program

Borooah, Vani and Diwakar, Dilip and Sabharwal, Nidhi (2012): Evaluating the Social Orientation of India’s Integrated Child Development Services (Anganwadi) Program. Published in: Economic and Political Weekly , Vol. 49, No. 12 (2013): pp. 52-62.

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Launched in October 1975, India’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program is its largest national program for promoting the health and development of mothers and their children. In this paper we examine an aspect of the ICDS program that has been neglected, namely who are its beneficiaries? Are they persons from deprived groups who, but for the program, might not have received such services? Or are they persons from more privileged groups who have the resources to acquire them from other sources? In both cases the ICDS program adds value but, in the latter situation, it does so by displacing existing services. This particular evaluation of the ICDS program is particularly important in the light of the Government of India’s view, as articulated in its Eleventh Five Year Plan, that growth is not perceived as “sufficiently inclusive for many groups, especially Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Minorities”. The paper presents econometric estimates regarding the relative strength of the personal and household circumstances of persons in determining the likelihood of utilising ICDS services. These estimates suggest that inter-group differences in utilisation rates has less to do with characteristics and much more to do with group identity. Lastly, the paper suggests a trade-off between quality and utilisation by hypothesising that the poor quality of services leads upper caste mothers to exit the ICDS market and seek these services elsewhere.

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