Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics

Delhi School of Economics


Religious Affiliation and Socioeconomic Outcomes:
Evidence from Marginalised Caste Groups in India


Ashwini Deshpande
(Ashoka University)
Rajesh Ramachandran
(Monash University)

(Thursday, April  13, 2023, 3:15 PM IST)
Venue: Amex Room 


The effect of religious affiliation on individual socioeconomic outcomes is hard to isolate given the stratification within religious groups. India provides the ideal context to examine this question because of its unique setting, viz., that all major religions exhibit caste cleavages. We examine the socioeconomic outcomes within the most marginalised caste groups, whose total population exceeds 300 million, across religious groups in India. We find that individuals from the most marginalised castes that identify as Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs have higher levels of human capital, are in higher paying occupations, have more assets and lower self-reported experience of social stigmatization relative to their Hindu counterparts. The Indian constitution allows individuals the freedom to choose religion. Those from the most marginalised castes within Hinduism have a history of converting to other religions in order to escape stigma. We examine differences between religious identity within jatis to estimate the impact of religious conversion on socioeconomic outcomes. Our results indicate that the better outcomes of Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians cannot be attributed solely to selection. Finally, using the Mahars as a specific example, we provide causal evidence on the impact of religion on socioeconomic outcomes.
All are cordially invited.

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