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What is the Kerala Model?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Kerala Model is an interesting phenomenon in the Indian State of Kerala. Despite being extremely poor, Kerala is rated very high on most indices for human development, in a trend which began to emerge in the middle of the 20th century. Champions of the Kerala Model have suggested that it could be used as a blueprint to improve human development in other developing nations. Others have argued that it is an isolated phenomenon which may not be ultimately sustainable.

The events in Kerala first began to be noticed in the 1970s, when economists noted that despite being extremely poor, the state had high literacy rates, healthy citizens, and a politically active population. Researchers began to delve more deeply into what was going in the Kerala Model, since human development indices seemed to show a standard of living which was comparable with life in developed nations, on a fraction of the income. The development standard in Kerala is comparable to that of many first world nations, and is widely considered to be the highest in India.

The Kerala phenomenon is the result of several conditions, and it may not be easy to replicate. As early as the 1800s, the state had a progressive attitude about education and health. The state also promoted radical attitudes about the caste system, extending education to Untouchables in the 1860s. In addition, the state has a history of aggressive public health practices, including an extensive network of clinics and health educators.

Despite having high standards of human development, the Kerala Model ranks low in terms of industrial and economic development. The high rate of education in the region has resulted in a brain drain, with many citizens migrating to other parts of the world for employment. The overall job market in Kerala is also very depressed, forcing many citizens to relocate to places like Dubai, where they may find quality employment or they may essentially be treated like slaves.

With the mass-migration of residents to areas with bigger job markets, a curious social stratification has emerged in Kerala between families of migrants and families which stay together. Migrant families can afford numerous amenities, many of which are not attainable for other citizens. This stratification is an issue of concern to economists, along with the depressed job market and generally low income. While the Kerala Model certainly illustrates one way to improve the literacy and health of a populace, it unfortunately does not appear to be a solid solution to development issues.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon348981 — On Sep 22, 2013

All of these people who tried to downgrade us keralites forgot one vital point that makes us great: we have almost no poverty. How does that sound?

By anon296589 — On Oct 11, 2012

There are two main reasons for this: Christianity and communism. Christianity started the phenomenon by increasing the number of schools and hospitals. I am sure even now, most Hindus who hate all things Christian still go to Christian schools and colleges. Communism again reduced the inequality of distribution by redistributing wealth to lower class.

The reason Kerala is not rich is partly Communism's fault, where industry cannot grow. It was essential at the beginning, but not anymore.

And about Kerala being the worst state in India; it is because they have better reporting systems. Some guy commits suicide in Bihar, and no one cares. No one even knows about it.

By anon286738 — On Aug 22, 2012

What is wrong with people who want to stereotype people from a state and to bully them over the internet? I'm from maharashtra and I have a few keralite friends. They are sweet and funny, as per my knowledge.

By anon283351 — On Aug 03, 2012

I see most of the prostitute videos from kerala. I don't find many from north India. Your neighbor brother Karnataka doesn't have this problem except in Bangalore. Indecency is increasing in Kerala due to increasing conversions to Christianity and declining Hindu population and Hindu morals. This is the effect of the Christian culture.

By anon243051 — On Jan 26, 2012

In kerala there are, as you said, many goondas, but not as man as in other states, and the funniest part is here the politicians don't use goondas as their supporters, whereas in other states, the goondas become the politicians and there will be a large group called party workers who were really goondas.

The second thing is you said the highest numbers of sex scandals happens in kerala. The word mallu is used by many while posting hot videos, and 80 percent of the videos posted as Hot mallu videos are, in reality, not mallu videos. Check it out for yourself.

Then comes the matter of perverts. I am working here in Delhi. In my office there are I don't how many north Indians, but I can guarantee that 95 percent of the women and men are having extra marital affairs. So what do you call them, crazy or immoral?

Kerala is the only place where the government controls the beverage corporations and that's the reason why the government regulates the alcohol consumption rate for the state. In other states, nobody has any idea of how much liquor they are consuming, so literally, kerala become the largest liquor consuming state.

You mentioned drugs, but the largest drug consuming states are Maharashtra and Goa.

And there is nothing called the coconut jungle. This is the problem with illiteracy and jealousy. Just check on a google map. Can you show me one state which is green in color other than Kerala and Karnataka?

And about king Mahabali -- you believe in all that stuff, that lord krishna "Squeezed" him in to Paatal.

By anon106860 — On Aug 27, 2010

All of the negative things mentioned above happen in all other states in India in a much higher degree. Only thing is they have no time to count. They are busy just trying to make a life. In Kerala, our stomachs are full and we have time and money for drinks.

By anon91737 — On Jun 23, 2010

negative people see only negative things where ever they go- about the comments-1 and 2

By anon82232 — On May 05, 2010

Kerala is a great place. A model for the rest of the world. You're just jealous.

By anon64578 — On Feb 08, 2010

Highest suicide rates. Highest alcohol and drugs consumption. Highest divorce rates. Highest road accidents. Largest mentally deranged population. Highest unemployment.

Most backward in infrastructure and development. Largest sexual perverts, ogling at tourists. Highest sex scandals. Highest women abuses. Largest anti social elements called goondas.

A 100 percent literate Keralite who never went out of the state does not know what a subway is.

Kerala is a big lunatic asylum as declared by Vivekananda, with barefooted males walking half naked in lungis, spitting in public, peeing on walls and honking proudly in their small match box cars.

Stone age tribes still living in coconut jungles and die falling into pot holes. Just reading some alphabets does not make one civilized or literate. Their king Mahabali was a demon. A Bihari may be filthy outside but lunatic mallus are more dangerous, with an arrogant, pervert, hypocritical and filthy mind.

By anon14027 — On Jun 09, 2008

You are right that this is an isolated case. I have grown up and gone to school with keralite students living abroad and i can assure you there is no such thing as 'Kerala model': the population in kerala study coz they see a means of livelihood and future in education. Also, don't forget, keralites in Kerala have the highest rate of student suicide in the whole of India!!!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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