The Labor/Land Ratio and India's Caste System

47 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2012

See all articles by Harriet Orcutt Duleep

Harriet Orcutt Duleep

College of William & Mary - Policy School; IZA Institute of Labor Economics


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.

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

JEL Classification: J47, J1, J30, N3, Z13

Suggested Citation

Duleep, Harriet Orcutt, The Labor/Land Ratio and India's Caste System. IZA Discussion Paper No. 6612. Available at SSRN:

Harriet Orcutt Duleep (Contact Author)

College of William & Mary - Policy School ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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