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The Labor/Land Ratio and India's Caste System

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  • Duleep, Harriet

    () (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

  • Duleep, Harriet, 2012. "The Labor/Land Ratio and India's Caste System," IZA Discussion Papers 6612, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6612
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    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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