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Is Caste Destiny? Occupational Diversification among Dalits in Rural India

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Author Info

  • Gang, Ira N.

    ()
    (Rutgers University)

  • Sen, Kunal

    ()
    (University of Manchester)

  • Yun, Myeong-Su

    ()
    (Tulane University)

Abstract

The caste system – a system of elaborately stratified social hierarchy – distinguishes India from most other societies. Among the most distinctive factors of the caste system is the close link between castes and occupations, especially in rural India, with Dalits or Scheduled Castes (SC) clustered in occupations that were the least well paid and most degrading in terms of manual labour. Along with the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the SCs have the highest incidence of poverty in India, with poverty rates that are much higher than the rest of the population. Since independence, the Indian government has enacted affirmative action policies in educational institutions and public sector employment for SCs and STs. In addition, in the more populous states of India, political parties have emerged that are strongly pro-SC in their orientation in the more populous states of India. We use five rounds of all-India employment data from the National Sample Survey quinquennial surveys from 1983 to 2004 to assess whether these political and social changes has led to a weakening of the relationship between low caste status and occupational segregation that has existed historically in India. We find evidence that the occupational structure of the SC households is converging to that of the non-scheduled households. However, we do not find evidence of a similar occupational convergence for ST households.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6295.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6295

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Keywords: caste; occupational diversification; poverty; India;

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  1. Viktoria Hnatkovska & Amartya Lahiri & Sourabh Paul, 2012. "Castes and Labor Mobility," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 274-307, April.
  2. Rohini Pande, 2003. "Can Mandated Political Representation Increase Policy Influence for Disadvantaged Minorities? Theory and Evidence from India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1132-1151, September.
  3. Vegard Iversen & Adriaan Kalwij & Arjan Verschoor & Amaresh Dubey, 2010. "Caste dominance and economic performance in rural India," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 10-01, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.
  4. Ralitza Dimova & Kunal Sen, 2010. "Is household income diversification a means of survival or a means of accumulation? Panel data evidence from Tanzania," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 12210, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  5. Kijima, Yoko, 2006. "Caste and Tribe Inequality: Evidence from India, 1983-1999," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(2), pages 369-404, January.
  6. Pramila Krishnan & Stefan Dercon, 1995. "Income portfolios in rural Ethiopia and Tanzania: choices and constraints," CSAE Working Paper Series 1995-12, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  7. Richard Palmer-Jones & Kunal Sen, 2003. "What has luck got to do with it? A regional analysis of poverty and agricultural growth in rural India," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(1), pages 1-31.
  8. Deshpande, Ashwini, 2001. "Caste at Birth? Redefining Disparity in India," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(1), pages 130-44, February.
  9. Peter Lanjouw & Rinku Murgai, 2009. "Poverty decline, agricultural wages, and nonfarm employment in rural India: 1983-2004," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 40(2), pages 243-263, 03.
  10. Siwan Anderson, 2011. "Caste as an Impediment to Trade," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 239-63, January.
  11. Banerjee, Abhijit & Somanathan, Rohini, 2007. "The political economy of public goods: Some evidence from India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 287-314, March.
  12. Abowd, John M & Killingsworth, Mark R, 1984. "Do Minority-White Unemployment Differences Really Exist?," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 2(1), pages 64-72, January.
  13. Francine D. Blau & Wallace E. Hendricks, 1979. "Occupational Segregation by Sex: Trends and Prospects," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(2), pages 197-210.
  14. Vani K. Borooah, 2005. "Caste, Inequality, and Poverty in India," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(3), pages 399-414, 08.
  15. Ira N. Gang & Kunal Sen & Myeong-Su Yun, 2008. "Poverty In Rural India: Caste And Tribe," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 54(1), pages 50-70, 03.
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