Discussion paper

DP15778 A Division of Laborers: Identity and Efficiency in India

Workers’ social identity affects their occupation, and therefore the structure and prosperity of the aggregate economy. We estimate a general equilibrium Roy model of this phenomenon in the Indian caste system, where work and identity are particularly intertwined. New data
on occupation, wages, and caste’s traditional occupations and social status show that workers are over-represented in their traditional occupations and under-represented in socially higher or lower occupations. We consider counterfactuals removing castes’ hierarchical and occupational links. Despite more efficient human capital allocation, aggregate output gains are small–in some counterfactuals negative–due to weaker caste networks and reduced learning across generations.


Cassan, G, D Keniston and T Kleineberg (2022), ‘DP15778 A Division of Laborers: Identity and Efficiency in India‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15778. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15778