Four South Indian states - Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh - have played important roles in India’s growth story. The states also rank high on the human development front and poverty reduction.

IndiaSpend’s Dhritiman Gupta takes a look at some of the economic and social indicators of these states to get a better understanding of these four states that have played an important role in the country’s growth story.

First, a look at the growth rates the four states have managed over the past decade.

Table 1: Growth Rates of GSDP

YearsTamil NaduKarnatakaKeralaAndhra Pradesh
Average over 2004-05 to 2011-1210.
Average over 1994-95 to 2001-

(Figures are in %)

Source: Planning Commission Data

Tamil Nadu Leads Growth Rates

The growth numbers for all the four states have been impressive (Table 1) since 2004-05. The growth numbers, however, show a slowdown for the periods 2007-08 and 2008-09 and again in 2011-12. The effects of the global financial slowdown and the euro zone debt crisis are clearly visible in the numbers. Yet, the states have managed to grow at average rates that are upwards of 8% per annum over the period 2004-05 to 2011-12. And Tamil Nadu leads the pack with an impressive average growth rate of 10.2%.

There has also been a good pick-up in the growth momentum when we compare the periods 1994-02 and 2004-12. Tamil Nadu improved its growth rate by 4.7 percentage points followed by Kerala at 3.2 percentage points. Andhra Pradesh comes in 3rd with an improvement of 3.1 percentage points followed by Karnataka at 2.6 percentage points.

Now we look at the relative ranking of the states by comparing them with 32 states and union territories for which data is available. Over the period 1994-02, Karnataka was ranked 14th in the country followed by Andhra Pradesh at 16th, Tamil Nadu at 17th and Kerala at 18th. For the period 2004-12, the rankings had changed: Tamil Nadu had moved to 7th followed by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh at 13th and Kerala at 17th.

So, except Tamil Nadu, none of the states changed their positions much but the growth numbers are still quite impressive. It is just that some states like Bihar and Uttarakhand have grown at faster rates.

Per Capita Income More Than Doubles

Now, let us look at the general well being of the people. We will look at the income indicator, namely the per-capita income. Then, we will look at the poverty reduction record and general human development indicators.

Let us look at the per-capita (person) income.

Table 2: Per Capita Income

YearsTamil NaduKarnatakaKeralaAndhra Pradesh
2000-01 (in Rs.)20,31917,35219,85416,574
2011-12 (in Rs.)56,46141,54553,42742,710
Multiple Increase over the 11 year period2.

Source: Planning Commission Data

As can be seen from (Table 2), all the states have managed to more than double the income of its citizens over the 11-year period. Tamil Nadu and Kerala performed the best among the states by almost tripling incomes.

But we see something surprising if we look at the relative rankings vis-à-vis the 32 states and union territories for which data is available. In 2000-01, Tamil Nadu was ranked 10th in the country followed by Kerala at 11th, Karnataka at 12th and Andhra Pradesh at 15th. In 2011-12, the rankings were 9th, 10th, 17th and 16th, respectively. Rankings had not improved much. In fact, they had deteriorated for Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh despite the fact that these states had done quite well in increasing incomes.

Tamil Nadu Excels At Poverty Reduction

Let us now look at the poverty reduction records of the states.

Table 3: Poverty Reduction Records

StatesPoverty Rate in 2004-05 (in %)Number of Poor in 2004-05 (in millions)Poverty Rate in 2009-10 (in %)Number of Poor in 2009-10 (in millions)
Tamil Nadu29.419.417.112.1
Andhra Pradesh29.623.521.117.6

Poverty Rate- Percentage of people of the total population of the state living below the poverty line, Tendulkar Methodology used

Source: Planning Commission Data

As can be seen from the numbers, all the four states have done quite well in reducing poverty over a period of five years since 2004-05. Tamil Nadu performed the best by reducing poverty by 12.3 percentage points. Karnataka reduced it by 9.7 percentage points, Andhra Pradesh by 8.5 percentage points and Kerala by 7.6 percentage points.

If we look at the absolute number, Tamil Nadu leads the group again, having reduced the number of poor people by 7.3 million (Total Population in 2009-10: 71 million). Andhra Pradesh pulled up 5.9 million (Total Population: 83 million) people out of poverty followed by Karnataka at 4.4 million (Total Population: 60 million) and Kerala at 2.3 million (Total Population: 33 million).

The performance is commendable in light of the fact that the poverty situation has worsened in big states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh despite good growth.

In Bihar, the absolute number of poor people went up from 49 million to 54 million over 2004-09 while the number was unchanged at 73 million in Uttar Pradesh.

Healthy Literacy Rates

Now, let us turn the focus to literacy.

Table 4: Literacy Rate Over 10 Years

StatesLiteracy Rate in 2001 (% of population)Literacy Rate in 2011 (% of population)
Tamil Nadu73.480.3
Andhra Pradesh60.467.6

Source: Planning Commission Data

As can be seen from (Table 4), all the states, except perhaps Andhra Pradesh, had decent literacy rates of more than 75% in 2011. The all-India figure was 74%. Kerala had a huge lead over other states with near universal education and a literacy rate of 93.9%.

While Kerala comes first in the country on the literacy front, Tamil Nadu ranks 15th, Karnataka 23rd and Andhra Pradesh 31st.

Good Social Indicators

We will now look at life expectancy and the sex-ratio of the states.

Table 5: Life Expectancy And Sex Ratio Rates

StatesLife Expectancy 2002-06 (in no of years)Sex Ratio in 2011
Tamil Nadu66.2995
Andhra Pradesh64.4992

Sex Ratio is defined as the number of female per 1000 male

Source: Planning Commission Data 1, Planning Commission Data 2

Life expectancy figures for all the four states (Table 5) over 2002-06 was above the all-India figure of 63.5 years. Kerala is again ranked first in the country with a figure of 74.0. The three other states also performed well. Of the 15 states for which data is available, Tamil Nadu comes at 4th, Karnataka 6th and Andhra Pradesh 8th.

All the states have performed exceptionally well when it comes to sex-ratios. All the states had a much higher ratio than the all-India ratio of 940 females per 1,000 males. Of the 35 states and union territories for which the data is available, Kerala comes in first with a ratio of 1,084, Tamil Nadu 3rd with a ratio of 995, Andhra Pradesh 4th with a ratio of 992 and Karnataka 11th with a ratio of 968.