Caste-based crimes and economic status
Evidence from India
Crimes against the historically marginalized Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC and ST) by the upper castes in India represent an extreme form of prejudice and discrimination. In this paper, we investigate whether changes in relative material standards of living between the SCs/STs and upper castes – as measured by the ratio of consumption expenditures of SCs/STs to that of upper castes – are associated with changes in the incidence of crimes against SCs/STs. Based on the hierarchical social structure implied by the caste system, we posit that an increase in the expenditure ratio is positively correlated with the incidence of crimes committed by the upper castes against the lower castes. Using official district level crime data for the period 2001–2010, we find a positive association between crimes and expenditure of SC/ST vis-á-vis the upper castes. Further, distinguishing between violent and non-violent crimes, we find it is the violent crimes that are responsive to changes in economic gaps. Moreover, this relationship is on account of changes in the upper castes’ economic well-being rather than changes in the economic position of the SCs and STs.