ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rags to Riches? Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in India

The paper examines intergenerational occupational mobility in India among males. This analysis differs from previous work in three important respects. First, a finer-grained categorisation that takes into account differences in skill levels across occupations as well as India’s social hierarchy of labour is used. Second, both large and moderate ascents and descents are examined. Third, the situation in India with mobility patterns at other times and in other countries is compared. The results show vast differences in the upward and downward mobility prospects of urban and rural residents and upper-caste Hindus versus Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The findings also reveal that downward mobility risks loom large in India and that mobility patterns in India and China appear remarkably similar.

1 Introduction

Those familiar with the empirical literature on social change in India will have registered not only a recent polarisation but also a rich myriad of research and findings that makes it hard to pass a balanced verdict about the magnitude, precise content, and robustness of social and economic mobility not only during the post-liberalisation years but also in earlier periods. While the latest evidence on poverty suggests that all social groups are moving forward, the pace of this progress has been unequal (Dubey and Thorat 2012). Specific population groups—particularly, Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and women—have lagged behind on a variety of fronts, indicating that the educational, occupational, and social mobility of these groups merits special attention. Kapur et al (2010) census of SC households in two blocks in Western and Eastern Uttar Pradesh finds evidence of important and symbolic dietary changes, less restrictive social interactions, and changes in occupations and migration to cities. However, the findings from a parallel study, with a very similar agenda, are less encouraging. Studying 550 villages of 11 large states, Shah et al (2006) found that SCs were often prevented from full participation in local markets, from entering village shops, and from selling milk to village dairy cooperatives. One possible explanation for this stark contrast in findings could simply be that the two studies address and report on different manifestations and use diverse methodological approaches.

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Updated On : 23rd Mar, 2018

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