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The Labor/Land Ratio and India’s Caste System

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  • Harriet Orcutt Duleep

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    (Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, The College of William and Mary)

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    Abstract

    This paper proposes that India’s caste system and involuntary labor were joint responses by a nonworking landowning class to a low labor/land ratio in which the rules of the caste system supported the institution of involuntary labor. The hypothesis is tested in two ways: longitudinally, with data from ancient religious texts, and cross-sectionally, with twentieth-century statistics on regional population/land ratios linked to anthropological measures of caste-system rigidity. Both the longitudinal and cross-sectional evidence suggest that the labor/land ratio affected the caste system’s development, persistence, and rigidity over time and across regions of India.

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    File URL: http://economics.wm.edu/wp/cwm_wp137.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Department of Economics, College of William and Mary in its series Working Papers with number 137.

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    Length: 46 pages
    Date of creation: 17 Mar 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:137

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    Related research

    Keywords: labor-to-land ratio; population; involuntary labor; immobility; value of life; marginal product of labor; market wage;

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    1. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-37, May.
    2. Engerman, Stanley L., 1973. "Some Considerations Relating to Property Rights in Man," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(01), pages 43-65, March.
    3. Domar, Evsey D., 1970. "The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(01), pages 18-32, March.
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