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How Backward are the Other Backward Classes? Changing Contours of Caste Disadvantage in India


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  • Ashwini Deshpande

    (Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi, India)

  • Rajesh Ramachandran

    (Department of Microeconomics and Management Goethe University, Frankfurt)


While there is a growing literature on the political rise of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in India, where they are often seen as the new elite or the dominant castes, detailed empirical assessments of their socio-economic condition are practically non-existent. Using individual-level data from the National Sample Survey for 1999-2000 and 2009-2010, our paper is one of the first to undertake a comprehensive empirical exercise, both at the national as well as the regional levels. We compare five age-cohorts, born between the years 1926-85, for the OBCs, SC-STs and Others (everybody else) and examine the differences in key indicators such as educational attainment, occupation and activity status, wages and consumption expenditure through a difference-in-differences method. Our results show clear disparities in virtually all indicators of material well-being, with Others at the top, SC-STs at the bottom and OBCs in between. We and evidence of convergence between OBCs and Others in literacy and primary education, but continued divergence when higher educational categories are considered. In the realm of occupation, the younger cohorts among OBCs seem to be closing the gap vis-a-vis the Others in terms of access to prestigious white-collar jobs. Finally comparing wage gaps for males in the labour force and estimates of labour market discrimination, we and that while average wages of Others are higher than those for OBCs for all age cohorts, the unexplained (or the discriminatory) component is lower for younger OBC cohorts, compared to the older ones, and that OBCs face lower labour market discrimination compared to SC-STs, when the average wages of both groups are compared to those of Others.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics in its series Working papers with number 233.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cde:cdewps:233

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  1. Ben Jann, 2008. "The Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition for linear regression models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 8(4), pages 453-479, December.
  2. Ashwini Deshpande, 2007. "Overlapping Identities under Liberalization: Gender and Caste in India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 735-760.
  3. Deshpande, Ashwini, 2011. "The Grammar of Caste: Economic Discrimination in Contemporary India," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198072034, September.
  4. Zacharias, Ajit & Vakulabharanam, Vamsi, 2011. "Caste Stratification and Wealth Inequality in India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 1820-1833.
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