Measuring States: Thought Experiment, Step 1

Dr Lawrence Goldman appeared in a Radio 4 podcast a while ago that the BBC has decided not have the archive available for. In it he mentioned something along the lines of ‘the cost of a more equal society is the lack of excellence.’ That may be a point of contention when the question of basic living does not arise between two societies such as Europe and USA. Within the Indian federal experiment, no state can claim that yet. So, a basic test of where you’d rather be born is a powerful metric to measure the polity and governance of these states.

Much like the thought experiment earlier for newly formed states, let us consider where would you rather be born if you were the mean, median and mode of each society(state) under consideration. Before one is even born, the true measure of well being in such an overpopulated country like India is possibly not being born at all. So, on that score, a low fertility rate is possibly the first metric to look at. The states[1] that have fertility rates below replacement are,

State Fertility Rate (2011)
Tamil Nadu 1.7
West Bengal 1.7
Kerala 1.8
Andhra Pradesh 1.8
Maharashtra 1.8
Punjab 1.8
Himachal Pradesh 1.8
Karnataka 1.9
J & K 1.9

This list assumes significance in multiple ways as it directly has consequence on political representation.

Now that you are going to be born, the next set of measures you may want to look at is whether you and your mother won’t die in the process. So, let’s look at IMR and MMR. The top 6[2] states you’d rather be born are,

State IMR (2011) MMR (2009)
Kerala 12 81
Tamil Nadu 22 97
Maharashtra 25 104
Punjab 30 172
North East 30 NA
West Bengal 32 145

The question here may be, what has the government done to improve my chances? Because it’s only logical for a person to be born not only in a good but also rapidly improving state. To achieve that, let’s consider the IMR values from 2005 as benchmark and then look at which states occupy the top 5 positions,

State IMR (2005) IMR (2011) Improvement %
Tamil Nadu 37 22 40.54
Punjab 44 30 31.82
Maharashtra 36 25 30.56
Karnataka 50 35 30.00
Bihar 61 44 27.87

By this yardstick, Kerala naturally falls way behind at position 21. It improved its IMR from 14 to 12 in this time period — a low enough starting point where improvement is very difficult. But what this also points to is the fact that Tamil Nadu has a clear divergence in terms of its improvement metric even amongst the best performing states despite its low absolute values. Albeit, still twice that of Kerala.

The way low IMR and MMR is achieved is by providing pregnant women care before, during and after child birth. So, the top five states on that regard are,

State Percentage of Child Births with skilled assist (2005-6) Percentage of at least 1 ANC Visit (2005-6) Post natal check up (2005-6) Care Score
Kerala 99.4 94.4 87.4 281.2
Tamil Nadu 90.6 98.6 91.3 280.5
Andhra Pradesh 74.9 94.3 73.3 242.5
Karnataka 69.7 89.3 66.9 225.9
Maharashtra 68.7 90.8 64 223.5

The care score is a simple sum of the three measures to rank the states[3]. So, as the data above suggests, if you have to be born in India and are not privileged enough to be granted Kerala pick Tamil Nadu.


[1] – This is from a list of states. Union territories have not been considered.

[2] – North East as a group has variance within as well.

[3] – There must be better way to do this and I’ll be glad if someone can help with an index for the next steps of this thought experiment.

Note on Data: the data above is from the NSSO and MHFW Reports that Krish Ashok helped extract into a spread sheet. I’ve also taken the liberty of manually typing the numbers into a spreadsheet from the voluminous data that Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen collated for their book. Given most of that data is from publicly available sources, one assumes that’s alright.

2 thoughts on “Measuring States: Thought Experiment, Step 1

  1. Me

    You have computed the improvements in IMR but not improvements in MMR. Unavailability of data? Also, a footnote saying IMR & MMR are deaths/1000 live births will help a casual reader.

    It will also be interesting to see the states improvement over longer periods of time, say about a decade to know the impacts of different governments and their policies.

    It would have been interesting to see top ten states under each category or the performance of the same states across different categories. Gujarat doesn’t show up on any of your lists.

  2. Puram Post author

    I was lazy to gather the MMR numbers. Sorry about that. IMR is per 1000 and MMR is per 100,000.

    The next step will be over longer periods, hopefully.

    I have the spread sheet for all states, I’ll put it up at the end of step N.

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