Is Caste Destiny? Occupational Diversification Among Dalits in Rural India

34 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2012

See all articles by Ira N. Gang

Ira N. Gang

Rutgers University - Economics Department

Kunal Sen

University of Manchester

Myeong-Su Yun

Inha University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 13, 2012


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 labor. 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, there has been an emergence of political parties 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 have 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.

Keywords: caste, occupational diversification, poverty, India

Suggested Citation

Gang, Ira N. and Sen, Kunal and Yun, Myeong-Su, Is Caste Destiny? Occupational Diversification Among Dalits in Rural India (January 13, 2012). Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper No. 162, Available at SSRN: or

Ira N. Gang (Contact Author)

Rutgers University - Economics Department ( email )

75 Hamilton Street
ECONOMICS, New Jersey Hall, Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1248
United States
732-932-7363 (Phone)
732-932-7416 (Fax)


Kunal Sen

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Myeong-Su Yun

Inha University - Department of Economics ( email )

253 Yonghyun-dong
Nam-gu Incheon 402-751
+82 32 860-7779 (Phone)


IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics