If discrimination against an historically oppressed social group is dismantled, will the group forge ahead? This paper presents experimental evidence that a history of social and legal disabilities may have persistent effects on a group’s earnings through its impact on individuals’ expectations. 321 high-caste and 321 low-caste junior high school male student volunteers in village India participated in an experiment in which their caste either was not revealed or was made salient. There were no caste differences in performance when caste was not revealed, but making caste salient created a large and robust caste gap in performance. When a non-human factor influencing rewards (a random draw) was introduced, the caste gap disappeared. The results suggest that when caste identity is public information, low-caste subjects anticipate that their effort will be poorly rewarded. The experimental design enables us to exclude as explanations socioeconomic differences and a lack of self-confidence by low-caste players.
I. A short background on the caste system
II. Experimental design
III. The irrelevance of caste to performance when caste is not announced
IV. The caste-differentiated impact of the announcement of caste
V. Why does the announcement of caste affect behavior?
A. Low-caste expectations
C. The performance of the low caste in the Single Caste treatment
D. The performance of the high caste in the Single Caste treatment
VI. Overview of the effects of social context on the caste gap
VII. Is caste just class?
Instructions for the experiment