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Convergence across castes

Hnatkovska, Viktoria and Hou, Chenyu and Lahiri, Amartya (2021): Convergence across castes.

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Abstract

India has witnessed a remarkable catch-up by the historically disadvantaged scheduled castes and tribes (SC/STs) towards non-SC/ST levels in their education attainment levels, occupation choices as well as wages during the period 1983-2012. Using a heterogenous agent, multi-sector model we show that sectoral productivity growth during this period can explain 75 percent of the observed wage convergence between the castes. Inter-sectoral net flows of workers are key as they account for 3/4 of the predicted convergence. Absent these net flows, the caste wage gaps would have marginally widened. Selection effects, while present in these net flows, account for just a quarter of the predicted wage convergence. We also find that affirmative action policies that reduced skilling costs for SC/STs may have reduced the levels of the caste wage gaps at all times but played a limited role in accounting for the dynamics of the wage gap. Growth was key for the dynamic wage convergence.

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