Social Capital in India: Caste, Tribe, and Religious Variation in Social Networks

Reeve Vanneman, University of Maryland
James Noon, University of Maryland
Mitali Sen, University of Maryland

Using original data from a newly collected nationwide survey for 40,000 households in India, we examine variation in social capital in India across caste, tribe, and religion. Our primary measure uses a positional generator of social networks, counting how many ties the household has to persons in medical, educational, and governmental institutions. We find the expected hierarchy of Brahmins, high caste Hindus, other backward castes (OBCs), dalits, and tribals in access to these networks. Muslims score especially low. We also assess the degree to which these group differences are explained by the socio-economic position of the household. After controls, the advantages of Brahmins and the disadvantages of Muslims remain substantial. However, the weak networks of dalits and, to a lesser extent, tribals, are a consequence of their poverty and low education. We interpret the better networks of dalits and tribals than Muslims to the consequences of India's reservation policies.

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Presented in Session 152: Cross-national Dimensions of Racial/Ethnic Issues