Project at a glance

  • 1 in 5 children of upper primary school age in the world remains out of school
  • 25 percent of the world’s out-of-school children are in India
  • 25 percent of girls do not complete primary school

Why this study

India is home to 25 percent of the world’s out-of-school children. Girls are disproportionally affected, with one in four not completing primary school. Various efforts have been made to increase the educational participation of underrepresented groups, with a particular push from international initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals, in addition to India-specific educational reforms such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. It is important to understand potential benefits and costs of expensive government-led initiatives to increase school participation.

Substantial funds have been spent on programs that have distributed free uniforms to school-going children around the world, including India. The Ministry of Human Resource Development would be a natural audience for this research, as would groups such as the World Bank, which is deeply engaged in on-the-ground policy solutions for increasing educational participation among the most disadvantaged children around the world.


When trying to serve a specific population, some argue that resources should be directly targeted towards the intended recipients rather than be offered to the general population. What are the potential benefits and costs of targeting subsidies rather than providing them universally?

Drawing evidence from a free school uniform distribution initiative for children from historically disadvantaged castes and female students, this study is analyzing the impacts from reducing a potentially meaningful cost of government school attendance.

In AY 2004-05, government schools in “educationally backward” village groups became required to provide free uniforms to girls and lower caste students. By 2009, over 14 million children had received uniforms. The increase in free uniform provision within particular village groups provides a quasi-experimental setting to estimate the impacts of providing uniforms free-of-charge and thus, reducing the cost of attending school.

This project explores differential impacts by student gender and caste to understand how this program may have differentially influenced the decisions of beneficiaries and those who were not beneficiaries. It is also exploring how the program may have influenced educational quality as measured by teacher quality.