India’s ‘stolen GDP’ conundrum

The purpose of this post is to show that the boisterous claims of India’s historical GDP being the highest in the world are derived using extremely flawed methodology and dubious data.

Some basic knowledge of economics is required to completely understand the post.  I would appreciate if you read the additional reading and the sources I have cited before posting evaluative comments.


Background

“India’s economy was one of the largest in the world before the British robbed her of her wealth” is one of the most common claims made by users from all ends of the intelligence spectrum here on Quora. The claim has shot up since the Economist published this chart using data from Angus Maddison’s papers. Because for once the qualitative claim made taught to generations of Indian and Chinese was quantified, everyone harped on to share this picture without for once thinking about the dubious research that underlies it.

Angus Maddison’s estimates according to Angus Maddison himself are ‘mere conjecture’. Most peer reviewed evaluation of Angus Maddison’s study have dubbed them ‘nothing more than an educated guess’ or at best ‘far fetched speculation’. [1]

Dubious Assumptions in GDP estimation

Angus Maddison assumes that for a large part of their histories, growth of individual countries was stagnant which was followed by a slump or a rise in growth. The inflexion point where transition to modern growth happened differs for different countries. It is 1700 AD for China and 1800 AD for India. He then uses several assumptions to come up with GDP estimates. The three most prominent ones are,

  1. Assumption 1: Everyone in India pre-1800 AD was involved inSubsistence agriculture. This assumption applies to Maddison’s estimates of the GDP of all countries.
  2. Assumption 2: The per capita income of the entire world was the almost similar. For most countries, this was $400 in 1990 dollar terms.  This arbitrary estimate of subsistence income is described byGregory Clark as,

    Source: Angus Maddison: Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD. Essays in Macro-Economic History. Oxford 2007.

    Though much is obscure about how Maddison’s estimates were created, a crucial assumption is that the basic subsistence GDP per capita of all societies is $400 (1990 international prices). This is the fundamental constant in Maddison’s world. Any primitive enough society is assigned this minimum

    Maddison asserts that there were very minuscule differences in the subsistence level of different countries, thus of the 27 quotes of GDP for different countries, 26 lie in the range of $400 to $450.

  3. Assumption 3: Non agricultural variables had no or minimal impact on GDP. I need not explain that the most important variable missed here is international trade as services were non-existent. [2]

The methodology for GDP calculation is simple. After determining the per-capita income of the world at that time which was almost the same because everyone was a subsistence farmer, multiply it with an estimate of the world population.* This skews his estimates towards India and China because of their large population.

The curious case of India

Let’s begin with Angus Maddison’s famous results of world GDP per capita,

Source: Maddison, Angus. Contours of the world economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in macro-economic history. Oxford University Press, 2007.

From 1 AD to 1000 AD, all the economies of the world were poor as they all lived in subsistence or near subsistence levels. India was no exception. India’s per capita GDP was the same as most other regions of the world.  There is no evidence to say that the standard of living in India was better than any other region of the world. We begin to see societies with disposable income only near 1700’s when modern Industrial era begins.

Maddison estimated that India at that time had about 34 percent of the world’s population and since everybody was dirt poor subsistence farmer with near similar per capita income, India has 32 percent of the world GDP. See chart below

Source: Ibid

The GDP figure being thrown everywhere by exuberant Indians all over the web is high because of India’s enormous population of farmers, not because India’s civilization was advanced or better developed. **

If you have cited these GDP estimates of late, you have implicitly conceded that India was always dirt poor but it’s not an issue because the world was dirt poor till the 1500’s.

The case of Italy
According to chart A.7, Italy’s per capita income double that of India. Angus Maddison’s figures GDP figures are for regions that are a cohesive entity now whereas the majority of the population of the Roman Empire resided in Egypt and eastern Europe which are not a part of present day Italy. If such dominions of Roman Empire which are not in Italy are included in calculation now, Italy’s historical GDP should have been more that that of India and China.

Further data snooping

Maddison’s data has been the subject if immense data snooping*** over the years His data is always presented a way to suit or naturally lead to a desired result.The best example of this data snooping is the plot from the Economist.

Source: The Economist

This plot prepared by the Economist using Angus Maddison’s already flawed data also used PPP**** comparisons to compare global share of India and China over time. The Economist does not sufficiently explains how they came up with the ‘model consumption baskets’ to compare consumption over time. *****
This further adds to the inaccuracy of Dr. Maddison’s estimates.
But hey, this figure soothes nationalist ambitions and is hence irrefutable despite tons of economic evidence otherwise.

Conclusion

Angus Maddison was indeed a great economic historian. All his data is valid if studied in context with due emphasis to the subtle assumption Maddison’ adopted to come up with it. His figures taken out of context are used extensively on social media by anyone who wants to justify the existence of a glorious past that India arguable did not have. All countries of that time were poor and underdeveloped, India was no exception. India’s stolen GDP never existed in the first place.

I am fairly surprised to see boisterous claims misused primarily with people with limited knowledge of economic analysis to further their phony claims. “Quantification can create the illusion of precision” but that does not render a claim correct.
Angus Maddison was a great economist. His data though controversial brought about a revolution in economist. It is saddening to see the same data as the quantification of a fairy tale Indians have been taught in schools. Honestly, it is not.

Sources:
[1] Datta, Saugato, ed. Economics: making sense of the Modern Economy. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
[2] Maddison, Angus. Contours of the world economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in macro-economic history. Oxford University Press, 2007.
3. Clark, Gregory. “A farewell to alms.” (2007).

Further reading:
Myths of ancient China Excellent critique of Maddison’s Chinese data.
Angus Maddison: Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD. Essays in Macro-Economic History. Oxford 2007. One of the many peer reviewed criticisms of Maddison’s methodology.
Maddison counting A tribute to Angus Maddison for his contributions to economics.


* List of regions by past GDP (PPP) This article goes into detail on the controversies regarding Maddison’s methodology. Interestingly, this article and the data of India’s high GDP was there in Wikipedia for years but it made its way to mainstream social media only when the Economist published it as a good looking chart.
** The estimate of India’s population is also flawed. There are several competing estimates, Maddison just adopted the largest estimate as the most authoritative one and built up on it. There is a lot of evidence to claim that India’s population was less than that of China at that time.
*** Data dredging Using statistical methods to find relationships between variables.
**** For an overview of the controversy regarding PPP, refer to Taylor and Taylor (2004)
***** http://www.quora.com/What-are-th…

10 things everyone should know about Alibaba

First posted as an answer on Quora.

Introduction:  Alibaba’s rise to become one of the biggest Internet firms in the world is nothing less than meteoric while its founder Jack Ma is considered a ‘rockstar’ for inspiring entrepreneurial ambitions in hundreds of students all over China. He is idolized by most of my classmates at Peking University.

In China, Alibaba, especially its B2C website Taobao is not just another website, but an intricate part of people’s daily lives. Consumers trust Taobao more than they trust Chinese SOE’s and they prefer investing their money/taking a loan from Alibaba rather than government banks.

After living and studying in China for over an year, here is what I feel everyone should know about Alibaba:

1. Gender Diversity: An odd point to begin with it is something I appreciate the most about Alibaba. Alibaba’s gender diversity as CNN puts it,

Can put ‘Silicon Valley to Shame’.

*Alibaba’s original founders [1]

Among the 18 original founders, 6 were women and key positions such as Chief Talent Officer, in-charge of corporate culture and ethics are held by women.

2. Jack Ma started Alibaba collectively financed by him, his wife and 16 of his friends after two of his startups failed to gain traction.

Jack Ma from Alibaba’s initial years [2]

In the initial years, he operated Alibaba out of his apartment in Hangzhou.

3. A Diversified Conglomerate: Unlike popular perception, Alibaba is not just an E-commerce website. It is a highly diversified technology conglomerate with several subsidiary businesses in financial services and computing.

[3]

The E-commerce wing is the biggest and the most prominent though. The main divisions of Alibaba include

  • Taobao: By far the most popular C2C website in the world. ‘If it is not available on Taobao’, it is not available anywhere in China’ holds true in China.
  • TMall: Started to compete with JD.com and Amazon, it is Alibaba’s B2C platform.
  • Alibaba’s cloud services are the second largest in China

4. Behemoth in Numbers: Alibaba is literally a behemoth when measured in any metric, easily beating most of the established American tech companies by a sizable margin. [4]

  • It has over 230 millionactive subscribers and 2.8 million online stores.
  • 60 % of all parcels handled in China and 80 % of all E-commerce transactions are from Alibaba.
  • Taobao and TMall collectively handled approximately $200 billion worth of sales every year. China’s first Black Friday handled orders worth $5.75 billion, that’s about twice the Black Friday sales in the US.
  • Alipay, Alibaba’s online payments platform handled transactions worth a whopping $660 billion in 2012.

5. Alibaba’s IPO’s is the largest IPO in history valuing Alibaba at almost $170 billion. That combined with the jump share prices after they started trading valued Alibaba at $230 billion. [5]


Alibaba’s IPO when compared to other prominent tech companies. [6]

6. Consumer Friendliness: Pursuant of Jack Ma’s philosophy, Alibaba is one of the most consumer friendly companies in the world.

  • Alibaba’s payment system is designed in such a way that the seller does not receive the payment until the buyer informs Alibaba that he/she has received the product the product is as per his expectations.
  • The sellers have no control on the approval ratings of their virtual shops, they cannot delete reviews or manipulate their ratings.
  • Alibaba’s algorithm promotes negative reviews up the list so that they are clearly visible. This explains high levels of customer satisfaction and low levels of fraud given that 800 million products are listed on Taobao. [7]

The IPO prospectus of Alibaba read,

“Customers first, employees second, and shareholders third.” [8]

7. Product Listing: Yes, you read that right. Total number of products listed on Alibaba.com,Taobao and TMall combined exceeds 800 million. That’s 1 product for every 7 humans (approx.) [9]

8. Taobao Villages: Entire villages in China survive on selling their products all over the world through Taobao and Alibaba.com. They are colloquially called Taobao villages. This has led to the growth of side-businesses such as packaging etc in these villages.  [10]

This is the reason why Alibaba has such an emotional connect with most of its buyers/sellers. They have grown with the corporation.

9. Seller Friendly: Contrary to someone might infer, Alibaba is not biased against the sellers. Unlike Amazon and eBay where buyers can use any standard search engine to list sellers of the product you want to buy, Alibaba requires buyers to begin searching from within the website itself. This removes the ‘Mathew Effect’ bias that might harm new and small sellers. [11]

10.Future Growth: Alibaba’s growth prospects are amazing. Internet penetration in China is still low. Alibaba is set to clock in $ 1 trillion in sales pretty soon. Post IPO, Alibaba is set for major expansion worldwide as echoed in Jack Ma’s statement, [12]

“After we go public in the U.S., we will expand strongly in Europe and America,Because after all we’re not a company from China, we are an Internet company that happens to be in China.” [13]

Sources:

[1][2] Alibaba’s gender diversity puts Silicon Valley to shame
[3] Infographic: All Companies in Alibaba Group
[4] 18 Mind-Blowing Facts About Alibaba, The Chinese E-Commerce Giant On The Verge Of A Gigantic IPO
[5] Everything You Need to Know About Alibaba and its Mega-IPO
[6] Infographic: Alibaba Raises at Least $21.8 Billion in Record IPO
[7] China’s Internet Giants Lead in Online Finance
[8] Alibaba IPO Investors Come Third in Jack Ma’s Vision
[9] [10] ‘Taobao Villages’ reaping rich e-commerce harvest
[11] 18 Mind-Blowing Facts About Alibaba, The Chinese E-Commerce Giant On The Verge Of A Gigantic IPO
[12] The Alibaba phenomenon
[13] Everything You Need to Know About Alibaba and its Mega-IPO

*Most of this article is from the discussions and seminars about Alibaba at Peking University.

A Note on Khan Academy

This post first appeared as an answer to a question on Quora that read, Has Khan Academy lived upto expectations (Q3 2014) ? It can be accessed here

 Khan Academy  is arguably the best educational venture of this century in its outreach, it is changing the face of education especially for the underprivileged. It has certainly lived upto its expectations. Let exemplify this assertion:
Khan Academy has helped hundreds of high school students in the US and other parts of the world get through high school. One instance I know of is this anonymous gentleman featured in a Humans of New York post dated October 2013. [1]

The post read,

I got through high school by watching every single video on Khan Academy, and teaching myself everything that I had missed during the last nine years. Eventually I got into Queens College. I went there for two years and I just now transferred to Columbia on a scholarship provided by the New York Housing Association for people who live in the projects. It’s intimidating, because everyone else who goes to Columbia went to the best schools, and have had the best education their entire lives.”

And this is one of the many such success stories attributed to Khan Academy out there.
Second example of how Khan Academy has lived upto expectation the increasing use of its videos in high schools itself. [2]
 Schools all over the world are using Khan Academy videos to supplement normal teaching because the videos provide excellent benchmarking. One particular example I can think of is a primary school I visited here in Shenzhen, China where Khan Academy videos were an important part of SAT preparatory classes and the enrolled students did better in their SAT’s after being trained using Khan Academy videos.
As long as there are instances such as these where Khan Academy has helped individuals achieve their goals of gaining an education or/and in raising standards of education on a large scale, I can safely say Khan Academy has lived upto expectations.

[1] Humans of New York
[2] How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education | Magazine | WIRED

Note: I was rather surprised by the skeptical nature of this question. ‘Living upto expectations’ is highly preferential, which in this case is of the OP’s. I tried to answer the question as objectively as possible hence.

 

Shenzhen Diary : Da-fen Oil Painting Village

Counterfeit's of famous paintings, a very common sight at Da-fen.

Counterfeit’s of famous paintings at Da-fen

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Vladmir Putin’s portraits are a common sight at Da-fen

 The development of Shenzhen has been through the concerted efforts of the government and its people but what is often ignored are the small pockets of thriving novelty industries that have brought the spotlight to Shenzhen all across the world. One such industry is the oil painting industry centered on the dafen oil painting village. Started by a businessman from Hong Kong named Huang Jiang in the 1980’s, the oil painting soon became a thriving business community with more than 3000 artists replicating or producing more than 6000 paintings a day. And the rapid development of Shenzhen along with the increased demand for oil painting replicas the easy supply of which comes from the village made this obscure area in Shenzhen, one of the most visited places in Shenzhen. Most of the artists who work are well trained in the art and some are capable of producing a score of replicas in a day.

I visited Da-fen last month. The village developed as a gated enclave was a delight right from the start. I was greeted by the iconic ‘hand holding the paintbrush’ at the gates of the village signifying of what is to come next. I immediately fell in love with what I saw next. Streets lined with beautiful paintings stacked upon each other, artists deep in thought contemplating their next brushstroke, art connoisseurs and critics looking for that one perfect painting from the lot. The dafen enclave sometimes reminded me of medieval Europe or of the streets of Paris where painters lined up to earn a living painting portraits. The da fen enclave supports over 3000 families involved in the business. It comes as no surprise that the streets and shops are bustling with children. “Most shops are family owned. I like working as a painter here, it is good life for my family away from the overcrowded city and the pay is good too”, said Hu Liling, when asked about his life at dafen. “And most foreign people call my kid sweet when they visit my shop”, he laughingly adds.

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Hu LiLing at work.

The business at the village can be categorized into many types. Painters like Hu Liling run small inclusive shops selling portraits or simple replicas on a small scale. Hu, undertakes portraits too. He said that it is a new fad among the rich Chinese, to have their portrait adorns their living room. He charges anywhere between 400 to 1000 RMB for a portrait. “Sometimes I get invited to people’s homes to draw. I charge more than 2000 for that”, he said. “Tourists love getting their portrait drawn too.  Charge them extra. I charge extra because when they go back they tell their friends the painting costs thousands of dollars, so I don’t mind charging a few hundred kuai’s extra”, he says laughing hysterically.Custom made paintings at da-fen can range from subtle family portraits to quirky and oddballs such as a painting of ‘you naked except a Napoleonic cap riding a fire breathing laser shooting T-rex’ picture to the left.

Pauwel, a friend of mine with a painting of himself riding a fire-breathing T-rex.

Pauwel, a friend of mine with a painting of himself riding a fire-breathing T-rex.

Others like John, he preferred his English name, own large galleries that cater exclusively to orders from overseas. John, in his art gallery employs more than 70 artists and undertakes orders from Europe, North America etc. He said the most demanded paintings are those of exotic sceneries from China and India. “People in the west just love the natural beauty of the east. Probably because they don’t have it”, he said with apparent seriousness when asked about this unusual demand.

After talking to John, I spent the rest of the day taking a stroll on the streets of dafen experiencing sights from Paris, London and Venice right here in Shenzhen. My day at dafen came to an end with a cup of Turkish coffee at a small café  as the sun set on the village and shops closed to prepare for another day.  

Is China surrounded by countries afraid of her power ?

*This first appeared as an answer to a similar question on Quora. It can be accessed here

‘Power’ is an extremely relative term. I am not sure in which context the OP used it here. It will be easier to answer this question is the intended meaning of ‘power’ is explained more. I will nonetheless try my best to answer it. 

It is indeed true China is a regional power, its levels of consumption are increasing, it is growing strong militarily etc. but China is nowhere close to being a power strong enough to be able to intimidate its neighbors, even the smallest ones. David Shambaugh wrote an excellent article on the mis-perception of Chinese power titled The Illusion of Chinese Power in The National Interest . He writes,

“A mini-industry of “China rise” prognosticators has emerged over the past decade, all painting a picture of a twenty-first-century world in which China is a dominant actor. This belief is understandable and widespread—but wrong”

  • China is a single dimensional power, its only strength is its economy which is still dependent on manufacturing rather than consumption that it makes it highly susceptible to external shocks.
  • China is militarily weaker than many of its Asian counterparts including Japan. People’s Liberation Army is not battle ready, its navy is weaker than Indian navy, its air force is weaker than Japan’s.

It is indeed true that China is quite hostile in recent years to its neighbors with whom she shares a disputed maritime boundary.  Chinese navy regularly violates the UNCLOS [1] inviting condemnation from all over the world. A good example of this is the establishment of an oil rig by the PLA in Vietnam’s territorial waters. But this is as far as it gets. A dispute regarding South China sea has never been an extended one because even China know that it is in their interest to avoid a long stand-off with any of its neighbors.

Let us look at individual countries surrounding China :

  • Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan: Any unilateral action by China against any of the three will be followed by a swift and harsh retaliation by United States of America. These three nations have no reason to fear China.
  • Thailand and Philippines: Same as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan although the retaliation by USA might be slower in this case.
  • Indonesia and Vietnam: They are quite vocal and their tirades against China plentiful. I agree that they fear Chinese aggression on a regular basis but as the case of Vietnam proved, those incursions are mere symbolic.
  • Russia:  Its shear size warrants its safety. No reason to be scared here too.
  • India: Tricky, militarily India is equal to China in all respects and is even stronger in some namely the navy and ballistic missile technology. in terms of economics, China is far ahead of India. Nuclear deterrence is what ensures mutual non-aggression here. India has no reason to fear China either.

Lastly, we live in a globalized world where multilateral institutions like the United Nations wield significant influence in global politics. Article 2 Clause 4 of the United Nations Charter states that,

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

It is simply not possible for one nation to constantly petrify its neighboring countries without a proper reason (the reason which bears the consent of major global powers). China is no exception to this rule.

[1] United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 Edit: The reference to India being militarily equal to China is very broad and keeps in mind several future defense acquisitions. A friend of mine, Kirish Rajrightly pointed out that the PLA is quite advanced in its air strike capabilities and border area infrastructure. I still maintain that Indian Navy is superior to PLA Navy, with 2 functional carrier groups. Indian Navy is stretched to the limit though because of the larger coastline it has to defend.

Note: I fundamentally disagree by Neel Kumar‘s use of the word ‘tiny’ to describe the countries around China unless the word is used in its literal sense to signify area. Japan and Taiwan are two of China’s smallest neighbors area wise, but are militarily almost equal to China, their economy is much more robust to macroeconomic shocks than Chinese economy and they are technologically way ahead of China.

Advantages(or disadvantages) of APT over CAPM with an example

This post first appeared as an answer to a similar question on Quora. It can be accessed here

I will try to answer this question in the simplest way possible. I am assuming you want to know why would anyone use CAPM now that we have APT or how to choose between using CAPM and APT.

*I will skip the mathematical representation of both. 

Background: Even though general form CAPM can be derived as a special case of APT, CAPM precedes APT by more than a decade and was in vogue with economists till the late 1970’s.

Capital Asset Pricing Model: CAPM’s theoretical base lies in the assumption that the only source of idiosyncratic risk for a security is the market itself in which it is traded, not the external macroeconomic factors of the country where the market is located. This does not mean that the CAPM ignored macroeconomic shocks completely. CAPM assumes that all macroeconomic shocks affect the market as a whole and that shock in its entirety trickles down to all the securities traded in the market. That CAPM ignores macroeconomic shocks is a myth.

CAPM indeed fails empirically now but the failure is highly circumstantial.[1]CAPM’s underlying assumption is true for a less developed economy and financial market. With the advent of hedging and the development of financial markets itself, asset pricing theories too evolved. However, CAPM still remains one of the most widely studied asset pricing theorem because of its strong theoretical background and relevance in many emerging markets.

Arbitrage Pricing Theory: Arbitrage Pricing Theory, the most famous successor to the CAPM was introduced by Stephen Ross in the mid 1970’s. APT in essence is a mere extension of CAPM. APT introduced the concept of factors in asset pricing where factors are quantified macroeconomic shocks.  While all sources of risk were clubbed together in CAPM, APT says that different securities have different sources of risk because of different exposure to the various ‘factors’.

Difference between CAMP and APT: The APT’s use of factors is what justifies its use as a more realistic asset pricing theorem. Take the simple example of stocks of oil companies. The price of oil stocks will vary a lot with oil price shocks, tensions in the Middle East etc but will not be affected much by spike in inflation, changes in bond yields.

  • If we calculate the expected returns of this stock using CAPM, the market risk would have incorporated all sources of risk, that may of may not affect oil companies directly.
  • If we calculate the expected returns using APT, we don’t have to use the aggregate risk of the market. Instead we just use those factors of the real economy that affect oil companies. The expected returns in this case are more realistic because of the correct value of underlying risk.

Which one should you use ?

Herein lies the catch. It is very difficult even for very skilled macroeconomists to identify the ‘factors’ that may affect the price of individual stocks correctly. In many cases factors identified might not be supported by sound economic theory but a hunch or by past data both of which are not exactly rational. CAPM on the other hand relies on the market as the only source of risk and aggregated market risk can calculated with less difficulty. Even though CAPM is criticized on the grounds that it is too easy, it is still the only asset pricing theorem which has both a rock solid theoretical background and is easy of usage. [2]

[1] The earliest version of CAPM fails empirical tests. CAPM itself has evolved to keep up with financial development. ICAPM, Black CAPM and several other variants of CAPM have been tested to be sound empirically.
[2] This is the famous Roll’s Critique.

Note: I would be happy to provide a more mathematical answer to this question. Post it in the comments section if you want me to do so. Dr. Zvi Bodie’s textbook titled ‘Investments’ has an excellent chapter on factor models and the CAPM.  Interested readers can look it up

 

What are some of best recent researches in Economics/Finance focusing on India ?

*This post first appeared as an answer to a similar question on Quora. The same can be accessed here
 

There is very little pioneering research done or being done in Economics and Finance on India for several reasons. Firstly, Indian economic history is not unique, right from the socialist era to the free market era, there are numerous other example of similar nations available. Secondly, Indian Statistical Authorities have never been really good at maintaining databases that are large enough to support data intensive research in Economics/Finance. I believe the second reason is more pertinent. A couple of professors here at Peking University actually gave up their research on India mid-way for lack of data.

Despite that, I can think of a three prominent studies in Economics though released recently that might interest you.


Surnames and Social Mobility

Prof. Gregory Clark from University of California, Davis recently concluded his study on intergenerational mobility in India by tracking rare surnames, a unique and simple method he developed as a metric to measure intergenerational mobility. India in this case proved to be an ideal subject because of the prominent culture of fixed surnames that pass down generations after generations.
He concludes that social mobility in India has not changed significantly from 1860’s to 2012. He also concludes that success is easily predictable from lineage in India and ancestry not skill is what predominantly determines whether will you will be successful or not. He replicated that study in Sweden, United States and Japan and found social mobility to be similarly rigid. [1]
This in essence nullifies all the policy based attempts by the Government of India to reduce poverty as social mobility as proven by Dr. Clark is robust to policy interventions. All the replications of this study were published as a book this year titled The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility [2]

How it can benefit you ?

Dr. Clark’s method of measuring social mobility by tracking rare surnames can be applied to study several social indicators especially in India because surnames are so prominent in Indian culture and they rarely change. I rememberer a PhD student at NUS used it to measure the persistence of research grants being awarded mostly to people with rare surnames higher up in the caste system while another at UC Davis used it to measure social mobility in China.


Cows as Equity Investments

The following two studies are quite thorough and data oriented but also provide for excellent comic relief especially to a first time reader.

Santosh Anagol in 2013 studied the persistent domestication of cows by rural Indian households, the costs associated with it and the derived profits in a couple of districts of Uttar Pradesh. He concluded that continued cattle rearing in India is against the central tenets of capitalism that people act as rational profit maximizing agents because of negative profits from rearing cows and buffaloes. He explained this practice a religiously significant and hence still continuing.
The debate surrounding this paper was intense because it violated some long standing economic theories. [3][4][5]

This research was refuted in 2014 by Attanasio et. al’s NBER Working Paper in which they directly dismissed Anagol et. al’s findings. This research concluded that Cows are just like equity investments yielding high profits in some years and negative profits in some. Attanasio at. al use a larger dataset spread over three years with one year of drought come to this conclusion. [6]

How can you extend this study ?

I personally have no idea how both the aforementioned groups of economists came up with the original idea in the first place. I would be pleasantly surprised if someone is able to extend these studies. 

In Finance, I doubt if there is any pioneering study on India. Indian equity and debt markets are so similar to the United States and several other countries that there is nothing unique to study about them. However, the lack of good finance theory papers from/about India partly because of lack of good financial economists in Indian schools in a different issue altogether.

Note: I would happily engage in any discussion over this answer in the comments section.

[1] Clark, Gregory, and Zach Landes. “Caste versus Class: Social Mobility in India, 1860.” (2013).
[2] Clark, Gregory. The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility. Princeton University Press, 2014.
[3] Anagol, Santosh, Alvin Etang, and Dean Karlan. Continued Existence of Cows Disproves Central Tenets of Capitalism?. No. w19437. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2013.
[4] A more detailed discussion on Anagol’s paper. Cows, Capitalism and Social Embeddedness   – Why Nations Fail – Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
[5] The Economist’s take on the same Udder people’s money
[6] Holy Cows or Cash Cows?