IZA DP No. 10198: Identity, Perceptions and Institutions: Caste Differences in Earnings from Self-Employment in India
published in: Review of Development Economics, 24(2), 339-361
Using data from two rounds of the Employment-Unemployment Survey of the National Sample Survey for 2004-5 and 2009-10, we investigate the relationship between social identity, specifically caste identity in India, and perceptions of self-worth as measured by the amounts that individuals consider as remunerative earnings from self-employment. We also investigate if institutional change (e.g. a policy intervention such as an employment guarantee program, or change in the ruling party in power) mitigates this relationship. Finally, we examine the relationship between caste identity and actual earnings, and how institutional change can influence it. Our main finding is that caste identity in contemporary India does shape perceptions of self-worth. Among the fully self-employed, we find that controlling for other characteristics, lower-ranked groups earn lower amounts and perceive lower amounts as being remunerative. Further, institutional factors alter self-perceptions differentially for different caste groups, but in more nuanced ways than our ex-ante beliefs.