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The Labor/Land Ratio and India’s Caste System

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  • Harriet Orcutt Duleep

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

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Harriet Orcutt Duleep, 2013. "The Labor/Land Ratio and India’s Caste System," Working Papers 137, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:137
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    File URL: http://economics.wm.edu/wp/cwm_wp137.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-337, May.
    3. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • J47 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Coercive Labor Markets
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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