Pooja Khosla is a graduate student in economics at the University of Virginia where she is writing her dissertation entitled, “The Melting Pot: Can Exposure Reduce Bias?” Her research lies at the intersection of development economics, labor economics, psychology, and sociology with a primary focus on the educational and labor market outcomes of women and other under-represented minorities. Khosla received her undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Delhi (India), and an M.Sc. in economics for development from the University of Oxford. Prior to attending graduate school, she worked as a consultant at the World Bank and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
The Melting Pot: Can Exposure Reduce Bias? (Evidence from College Roommates in India)
Deep-rooted stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination continue to hinder integration of historically ’backward’ castes in India into the mainstream economy. By increasing interaction between members of different groups, affirmative action policies have the potential to break-down stereotypes and eventually reduce discrimination. Yet, resentment that such policies create may ultimately have perverse effects. I will examine how exposure to other socioeconomic groups affects attitudes and behavior. I do so in the context of an elite engineering college in India where lower admission standards are used for historically marginalized populations. I will randomly assign first year students to high-caste, low-caste, and mixed-caste rooms in university-run dormitories. After one year, I will examine whether living together affects stereotypical attitudes; support for redistributive welfare policies, and behavioral outcomes such as forming study groups, rooming with students from other groups, voting them for leadership positions. I will also examine how peers affect academic performance, career goals and non-cognitive skills. A novel feature of my analysis is that I will employ social network and time-use surveys to identify the ’true’ peer group of students. Additionally, I will distinguish between academic and non-academic peers. I am developing a model of endogenous peer-group formation to better understand social network formation.