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Photo: HT
Photo: HT

Class affects school enrolment more than caste

  • The likelihood of a child going to school reduces more due to gap in financial status than due to gap in caste status, a study from UP finds

Children in India have a constitutional right to education. But, in reality, social hierarchy keeps many of them out of school. One marker of that hierarchy is financial status, which can adversely impact the chances of enrolment even more than one’s caste, shows a study from Uttar Pradesh.

Economists Sandeep K. Tiwari, Kirtti R. Paltasingh, and Pabitra K. Jena from SMVD University show that a lower-caste child is less likely to go to school than one from an upper caste. But a child from a lower economic class has even less of a chance, compared to one from an upper class.

The authors come to these results using 2014 National Sample Survey data on children in Uttar Pradesh enrolled in and regularly going to elementary school, or Classes 1 to 8.

The authors also study how caste and class interact with each other. They calculate the enrolment gap between higher and lower caste groups among both richer and poorer families. They find that the gap is bigger in poorer classes—another example of how class effects dominate over caste effects.

So the interaction between caste and class works in a child's favour when they are from an upper class and against them when they are from a lower class. It also shows wealth can compensate for the adverse effect of being from a lower caste.

Uttar Pradesh was chosen for the study because the state’s caste composition broadly resembles India’s. So the findings could be extended to some degree to India as a whole.

The authors conclude that governments should target the bottom of not just the caste pyramid but also the class pyramid when they provide assistance to make sure every child goes to school, regardless of their social background.

Also read: “Caste-class association and school participation in Uttar Pradesh, India: Evidence from NSSO data"

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