Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 132, Issue 3, pp 589–601 | Cite as

Identity Rights: A Structural Void in Inclusive Growth

  • Mukesh Sud
  • Craig V. VanSandt


This paper investigates a structural void that, especially in the context of poor or developing nations, prevents economic growth from being more inclusive and benefiting wider sections of society. The authors initially examine the imperative for inclusive growth, one encompassing a focus on poverty and development. Utilizing social choice theory, and a capability deprivation perspective, we observe that the poor experience deprivations due to a deficiency in their personal autonomy. This in turn is deeply interwoven with the concept of identity. Legally recognizing the poor as individuals, and providing them with proof of their identity, will empower them and facilitate inclusive growth and poverty alleviation. These conceptual arguments are illustrated with the description of a biometric-linked developmental initiative that is providing proof of identity to 1.2 billion residents of India. By establishing a robust identity management system, the project aims to ensure more inclusive growth and efficiently target welfare programs. The authors further investigate how the establishment of identity rights facilitates financial inclusion, property ownership, and necessity-driven entrepreneurial action. Biometric identification on this scale is, however, fraught with dangers to civil liberties and has other serious ethical consequences. In the last section, issues around privacy and security are debated while highlighting the need for external review and independent monitoring to define the project’s boundaries and usages.


Identity rights Inclusive growth Poverty alleviation Financial inclusion Property rights Necessity entrepreneurship Biometrics India 


  1. Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., & Robinson, J. A. (2001). Reversal of Fortune: Geography and institutions in the making of the modern world income distribution, NBER Working Paper No. 8460, (September).Google Scholar
  2. Acs, Z. (2006). How is entrepreneurship good for economic growth? Innovations, 1(1), 97–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Annan, K. (2005). General assembly greenlights program for the international year of microcredit 2005. Press release. Accessed May 7, 2014, from
  4. Banerjee, A. V., & Duflo, E. (2007). The economic lives of the poor. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(1), 141–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bergmann, H., & Sternberg, R. (2007). The changing face of entrepreneurship in Germany. Small Business Economics, 28, 205–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Block, J. H., & Wagner, M. (2010). Necessity and opportunity entrepreneurship in Germany: Characteristics and earnings differentials. Accessed September 30, 2013, from
  7. Bruton, G. D., Ketchen, D. J., & Ireland, R. D. (2013). Entrepreneurship as a solution to poverty. Journal of Business Venturing, 28(6), 683–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calton, J. M., Werhane, P. H., Hartman, L. P., & Bevan, D. (2013). Building partnerships to create social and economic value at the base of the global development pyramid. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(4), 721–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen, S., & Ravallion, M. (2013). More relatively poor people in a less absolutely poor world, Policy Research Working Paper 6114. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  10. CLSA. (2010). What’s in a number, India Report. Accessed January 31, 2012, from
  11. Collier, P. (2007). The bottom billions: Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Collins, D., Morduch, J., Rutherford, S., & Ruthven, O. (2009). Portfolios of the poor: How the world’s poor live on $2 a day. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Conill, J. (2013). The philosophical foundations of the capabilities approach. In C. Luetge (Ed.), Handbook of the philosophical foundations of business ethics. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  14. Cortina, A. (2013). Capabilities, human rights and business. In C. Luetge (Ed.), Handbook of the philosophical foundations of business ethics. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Cowling, M., & Bygrave, W. (2003). Entrepreneurship and unemployment: Relationships between unemployment and entrepreneurship in 37 nations participating in the global entrepreneurship monitor (GEM) 2002. Wellesley, MA: Babson College.Google Scholar
  16. Cunha, J. M., De Giorgi, G., & Jayachandran, S. (2011). The price effects of cash versus in-kind transfers, NBER Working Paper Series. Accessed September 25, 2013, from
  17. de Soto, H. (2000). The mystery of capital: Why capitalism triumphs in the West and fails everywhere else. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Deininger, K., & Squire, L. (1998). New ways of looking at old issues: Inequality and growth. Journal of Development Economics, 57(2), 259–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dharmakumar, R., Singh, S., & Ramnath, N. S. (2013). How Nandan Nilekani took Aadhaar past the Tipping Point, Forbes India, October 8. Accessed October 30, 2013, from
  20. Dollar, D., & Kraay, A. (2002). Growth is good for the poor. Journal of Economic Growth, 7(3), 195–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dworkin, R. (1977). Taking rights seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Easterly, W. (2006). The white man’s burden: Why the west’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. New York: The Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  23. Ehrbeck, T., Lochan, R., Sinha, S., Tahliyani, N., & Zainulbhai, A. (2010). Inclusive growth and financial security: The benefits of e-payments to Indian society. New York: McKinsey & Company.Google Scholar
  24. Enderle, G. (2013). The capabilities approach as guidance for corporate ethics. In C. Luetge (Ed.), Handbook of the philosophical foundations of business ethics. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  25. Farrington, J., & Slater, R. (2006). Introduction: Cash transfers: Panacea for poverty reduction or money down the drain? Development Policy Review, 24(5), 449–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gelb, A., & Clark, J. (2013). Performance lessons from India’s Universal Identification Program, Center for Development, Policy Paper 020. Accessed October 15, 2013, from
  27. GEM, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. (2010). Accessed October 25, 2013, from
  28. GEM, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. (2013). Accessed October 25, 2013, from
  29. Granger, B., Stanworth, J., & Stanworth, C. (1995). Self employment career dynamics: The case of ‘unemployment push’ in UK book publishing. Work, Employment & Society, 9(3), 499–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Grayson, T.R.D. (2002–2003). Philosophy of identity, Part of the Identity Planet series. Accessed October 4, 2013, from
  31. Handa, S., & Davis, B. (2006). The experience of conditional cash transfers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Development Policy Review, 24(5), 513–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 1243–1248. Google Scholar
  33. Harris, G. (2013). India aims to keep money for poor out of others pockets. The New York Times, January 5. Accessed 15 Sept 2014.
  34. Hinz, T., & Jungbauer-Gans, M. (1999). Starting a business after unemployment: Characteristics and chances of success (empirical evidence from a regional German labour market. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 11(4), 317–333.Google Scholar
  35. Honohan, P. (2008). Cross-country variation in the household access to financial services. Journal of Banking and Finance, 32, 2493–2500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ianchovichina, E., & Lundstrom, S. (2009). Inclusive growth analytics: Framework and applications. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. ITC Ltd. Accessed April 15, 2014, from
  38. Kant, I. (1785). Grounding for the metaphysics of morals, (J. W. Elington, 3rd Ed., 1993, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.Google Scholar
  39. Kautonen, T., & Palmroos, J. (2010). The impact of a necessity based start up on subsequent entrepreneurial satisfaction. International Entrepreneurship Management Journal, 6(3), 285–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Khanna, T., & Raina, A. (2012). Aadhaar: India’s unique identification system. Boston: Harvard Business School.Google Scholar
  41. Kidder, R. M. (2009). How good people make tough choices: Resolving the ethical dilemmas of ethical living. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  42. Kim, S. (2009). Spatial inequality and economic development: Theories, facts and policies. In P. C. Annez, R. M. Buckley, & M. Spence (Eds.), Urbanization and growth (pp. 133–166). Commission on Growth and Development: Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  43. Kumar, H.: 2013, A Conversation with Asian Development Bank’s chief economist Changyong Rhee, New York Times, May 8. Accessed October 14, 2013, from
  44. La Porta, R., Lopez de Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2002). Government ownership of banks. Journal of Finance, 57(1), 265–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Maritz, A. (2004). New Zealand necessity entrepreneurs. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 1(nos. 3/4), 255–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mathers, C. D., Fat, D. M., Inoue, M., Rao, C., & Lopez, A. D. (2005). Counting the dead and what they died from: An assessment of the global status of cause of death data. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 88(3), 171–177.Google Scholar
  47. Mehrotra, N., Puhazhendhi, V., Nair, G. G., & Sahoo, B. B. (2009). Financial inclusion: An overview, Occasional Paper-48. Mumbai: Department of Economic Analysis and Research.Google Scholar
  48. Mukhopadhyay, P., Muralidharan, K., Niehaus, P., & Sukhtankar, S. (2013). Implementing a biometric payment system: The Andhra Pradesh experience, Technical Report. San Diego: University of California.Google Scholar
  49. Muralidharan, K., Niehaus, P., & Sukhtankar, S. (2014). Payments infrastructure and the performance of public programs: Evidence from biometric smart cards in India, National Bureau of Economic Research. Accessed 15 Sept 2014
  50. NIPFP Macro/Finance. (2012). A cost benefit analysis of Aadhaar. Accessed October 15, 2013, from
  51. Niehaus, P., & Sukhtankar, S. (2013). The marginal rate of corruption in public programs: Evidence from India. Journal of Public Economics, 104, 52–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nilekani, N. (2009). Imagining India: The idea of a renewed nation. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  53. North, D. C. (1990). Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Olson, E. T. (2010). Personal identity. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed October 16, 2013, from
  55. Parker, I. (2011). The ID man. The New Yorker, 1, 26–34.Google Scholar
  56. Polgreen, L. (2011). Scanning 2.4 billion eyes, India tries to connect poor to growth. The New York Times, September 1. Accessed 14 Oct 2013
  57. Press Information Bureau, Government of India. (2014). Planning Commission. Accessed May 8, 2014, from
  58. Rao, U., & Greenleaf, G. (2013). Subverting ID from above and below: The uncertain shaping of India’s new instrument of e-governance. Surveillance & Society, 11(3), 287–300.Google Scholar
  59. Ravallion, M., & Datt, G. (2002). Why has economic growth been more pro-poor in some states of india than others? Journal of Development Economics, 68(2), 381–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rawls, J. (2001). Justice as fairness: A restatement. Cambridge, MA): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Rediff. (2009). 22,800 fake staffers cost Delhi municipality crores!, Rediff Business. Accessed September 14, 2013, from
  62. Reinikka, R., & Svensson, J. (2004). Local capture: Evidence from a central government transfer program in Uganda. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 119(2), 678–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Reuters. (2011). Nigeria spends $175m on 'ghost' workers. Accessed 15 Sept 2014
  64. Reynolds, P. D., Camp, S. M., Bygrave, W. D., Autio, E., & Hay, M. (2002). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2001 Executive Report. Wellesley, MA and London: Babson College and London Business School.Google Scholar
  65. Ripstein, A. (1999). Equality, responsibility, and the law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Sapienza, P. (2004). The effects of government ownership on bank lending. Journal of Financial Economics, 72(2), 357–384.Google Scholar
  67. Schelling, T. (1984). Choice and consequences. Perspectives of an errant economist. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Sen, A. (1985). Commodities and capabilities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Sen, A. (1988). Property and hunger. Economics and Philosophy, 4(1), 57–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Shane, S., & Venkataraman, S. (2000). The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 217–226.Google Scholar
  72. Shleifer, A. (1998). State versus private ownership. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(4), 133–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Siggelkow, N. (2007). Persuasion with case studies. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 20–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Streeten, P. (1982). First things first: Meeting basic human needs in the developing countries. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  75. Sud, M., & VanSandt, C. V. (2011). Of fair markets and distributive justice. Journal of Business Ethics, 99, 131–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Thaler, R. (1985). Mental accounting and consumer choice. Marketing Science, 4(3), 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. UIDAI, Unique Identification Authority of India. Planning commission, government of India. Accessed 15 Sept 2014.
  78. VanSandt, C. V., & Sud, M. (2012). Poverty alleviation through partnerships: A road less travelled for business, governments and entrepreneurs. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(3), 321–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Werhane, P. H., Kelley, S. P., Hartman, L. P., & Moberg, D. J. (2010). Alleviating poverty through profitable partnerships: Globalization markets and economic well-being. New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.Google Scholar
  80. World Bank. (2011). Social protection for a changing India (Vol. 1). Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  81. World Development Report. (2000–2001). Attacking poverty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Zelazny, F. (2012). The evolution of India’s UID Program: Lessons learned and implications for other developing countries. Center for Global Development. Policy Paper 008.Google Scholar
  83. Zeller, M., & Sharma, M. (1998). Rural finance and poverty alleviation. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fairfield UniversityFairfieldUSA
  2. 2.David W. Wilson Chair in Business EthicsUniversity of Northern IowaCedar FallsUSA

Personalised recommendations