Class vs. Caste - Does equalizing class equalize life outcomes?

It is a well-known fact that there's an inequality of life outcomes in India. However, there's considerable debate on the mechanisms of inequalities. Four factors prominently feature in the discourse - class (economic status), caste, gender, and rural vs. urban. Disaggregating impacts of these individual factors is problematic because there is an overlap - the median income of higher castes tends to be higher, maybe they also tend to be urban, and so on.

In an important paper, Ashwini Deshpande of Delhi School of Economics disentangles the impacts of class and caste. In other words, it answers the question - if class conditions are equalized (economic status is equalized), does caste still play a role in life outcomes? It's only for rural areas.

Excerpts from her interview below
even when a lot of the class conditions are equalised, caste seems to have an independent effect on future life outcomes. The point at which the differences are really stark is performance in the school leaving examination (Class 12). From then on the differences just keep multiplying.
Disaggregating the results further by the individual caste (Brahmins vs. Dalits), she says
even when I compare poor Brahmins with poor Dalits, and middle class Brahmins with middle class Dalits etc. there are differences that are pretty stark. I have information on a number of caste categories, but the most significant and persistent difference is between the Brahmins at the top end of the upper castes, and the Dalits at the bottommost end of the caste hierarchy. The other differences are sometimes significant but it’s these two ends of the caste hierarchy where the differences seem to persist even when class conditions are equalised. Most national or macro data sets do not allow us to break up the upper castes to Brahmins and other upper castes, so this nuance is not highlighted.
The other important insight from the paper is that many don't avail reservation due to difficulty in procuring certificates, contrary to a section of people who argue that it's because people feel stigmatized to avail reservation.
I found that of those who do not use quotas ever, only 17% fear stigmatisation. The bulk of non-use comes from procedural difficulties that are created by the administrators and institutions who are reluctant to give them these places in the first place.
It may not be a conclusive evidence but it hints in the direction that caste handicaps are too strong to be dislocated by just bridging class differences.

We find similar evidence in competitive exams too. UPSC Civil Service examination is a good proxy to test the role of privileges because the cost of appearing for the exam (coaching, opportunity costs) and the role of other factors (support structures, family's financial health etc.) is high in this exam.

In UPSC Civil Service examination, 85%-90% of top 100 rankers are from General Category, 8-10% from OBC, 2-3% from SC and occasionally 1% ST. It holds true even if the rank range is extended to 500. It's astonishing because 85%-90% of the rankers are from a caste group that constitutes only 30% of the population. Probably, it also reflects the role of caste privileges, as found in Prof. Deshpande's paper. 

The birth factors seem to be playing too much role than it's presumed. One must also observe that if 'pure meritocracy' was followed, meaning that if there was no reservation, the caste composition of the civil servant recruits would have been highly skewed as above, reflecting more of the inequalities at birth and not necessarily pure merit. Equalizing class, as is argued in proposals to replace caste reservation with class reservation, doesn't seem to be enough to bridge birth inequalities, as the above evidence suggests. 

Caste handicap is too hard to ignore in the light of this evidence. All is not well, as the urban elite seems to assume.

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