• The Centre for Development Studies at Thiruvananthapuram with the help of the United Nations conducted a study called “Poverty, Unemployment and Development Policy: A Case Study of Selected Issues with Reference to Kerala”. 
  • The report was prepared by a team led by the eminent Economist Dr. K. N. Raj and was published in 1975. 
  • This study highlights the achievements of Kerala in attaining higher human development despite the low level of per capita income. 
  • The results and recommendations of this study came to be known as the ‘Kerala model’ of equitable growth which emphasized land reforms, poverty reduction, educational access and child welfare 
  • The term ‘Kerala model’ was not used by Dr. K. N. Raj in this study. But later it was popularized through the writings of Amartya Sen, Jean Drez etc. 
  • The Kerala model of development refers to the practices adopted in Kerala, which is characterized by strong social indicators such as high literacy, improved access to healthcare, high life expectancy, low infant mortality, and low birth rate, despite having a lower per capita income. These achievements of Kerala are often at levels comparable to developed countries.
  • At the time Kerala became a state in 1956, it was one of the poorest regions in India. By the 1970s itself, Kerala had made commendable progress in the areas of land reform, general education, and public health, and in reducing caste and gender inequalities. These achievements came in spite of the low level of per capita income of the state at that time.
  • The Kerala experience distinguishes itself not just because social development preceded economic growth but also because social development provided the stimulus for faster and qualitatively better economic growth.
  • The UNICEF study conducted in 1985 found while China had a literacy rate was 56 % for females and 82% for males, Kerala had overtaken China with a literacy rate of 71% of females and 86% for males. With extensive medical coverage, public health system and public food distribution system in place, the life expectancy for women was 67.6% in Kerala, while China was trailing behind at 64. 1%.
  • By the mid-90s, Amartya Sen took note of this economic phenomenon in his book ‘India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity.  He reveals that many parts of India were in positions worse than sub-Saharan Africa, and in stark contrast but at this time Kerala was ahead of Indonesia, Thailand and even South Korea in many of the significant human development index parameters. The Nobel Laureate was to remark, which is a truism even today, “Kerala’s success can be traced to the role of public action in promoting a range of social opportunities relating to elementary education, land reform, the role of women in society, and the widespread equitable provision of health care and other public services.