Caste Comparisons: Evidence from India
Xavier Fontaine and
Katsunori Yamada ()
ISER Discussion Paper from Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University
The caste issue dominates a large part of India's social and political life. Caste shapes Indians' identities, and strong tensions exist between castes. This paper evaluates how caste-based comparisons may be exacerbated in such a conflictual context. Using subjective well-being data from an original panel survey, together with a national representative survey on expenditure, we find that both within-caste comparisons and between-rival-caste comparisons reduce well-being. Between-caste comparisons affect well-being three times more than within-caste comparisons. In absolute value, an increase in rival castes' expenditure affects well-being as much as own expenditure. These findings highlight the strength of comparisons between rival castes. Yet this comparison scheme turns out to be asymmetrical: only low castes care about the economic successes of their rivals, and only high-caste Indians compete with their fellows.
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