What's in a definition? A study on the suitability of the current urban definition in India through its employment guarantee programme

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Research Article

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Journal of Asian Economics


Inaccurate definitions of urban areas in developing countries could have detrimental consequences for public service provision and construction of development indicators. We explore the suitability of the officially used administrative definition of urban and rural in India through a study of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), a demand-driven scheme targeted to rural areas. Applying three alternative definitions we find that India is more urban than recognised by the administrative definition. We further find that alternative definitions relate better with NREGS use than the administrative definition. We thus argue that the administrative definition of urban does not capture the true character of places and present a case against relying on the administrative definition to determine policy in India.

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