A central, yet understudied, component of state capacity is the quality of administrative data, which is a key enabler of effective policy making. The author studies this in the context of education systems in India. Using direct audit evidence, he shows that levels of student achievement in Madhya Pradesh, from a large census covering approximately 7 million students annually, are severely inflated due to cheating. This distortion affects students at all levels of achievement but is particularly severe for low-performing students. In a follow-up randomized experiment, covering over 2400 schools in a different state (Andhra Pradesh), the author evaluates whether tablet-based testing, which makes cheating harder, could reduce distortion.
RISE Working Paper 20/042