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Over 85% Billionaires Are Upper Castes

By Anoushka Sawhney
June 24, 2024 14:08 IST
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While other backward classes had a share of 9 per cent, there were no scheduled tribe billionaires.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Caste shows, even in riches. More than 85 per cent of total billionaire wealth in India belongs to those from upper caste communities.

People of the scheduled castes accounted for 2.6 per cent of such wealth in 2022, compared with the 88.4 per cent share of those from upper castes, according to additional data shared with Business Standard by researchers of the World Inequality Lab after the publication of their May 2024 study, Towards Tax Justice and Wealth Redistribution in India: Proposals Based On Latest Inequality Estimates.

The report was authored by Nitin Kumar Bharti of New York University, Lucas Chancel of the Harvard Kennedy School and Thomas Piketty and Anmol Somanchi of the Paris School of Economics.

While other backward classes (OBCs) had a share of 9 per cent, there were no scheduled tribe billionaires.

The researchers used publicly available billionaire lists and applied manual coding and an algorithm called 'Outkast' to determine caste (chart 1).

The data suggests that OBC billionaires' wealth declined and those of upper castes increased.

"This is driven by the fact that the new billionaires that have been added in recent years have largely only been from upper castes," said Somanchi.

Caste shapes education, health, social networks and access to credit: Such factors likely facilitate entrepreneurship and wealth generation.

Dalits were prohibited from owning land in many parts, which excluded them from land markets, affecting economic progress, he said.

The study ties in with research elsewhere. A lower proportion of SCs and STs own an enterprise relative to their share in the workforce, according to data in the State of Working India, 2023 report by Azim Premji University.

'...not only are general-category owners over-represented in all enterprise sizes but their over-representation increases with increase in size of the enterprise,' said the university study.

While scheduled castes' share of the workforce is 19.3 per cent, 11.4 per cent owned an enterprise. The share of scheduled tribes in the workforce is 10.1 per cent, but 5.4 per cent of them own an enterprise (chart 2).

Caste shapes wealth outside the billionaire list.

Just 12.3 per cent from scheduled castes are in the highest wealth quintile, according to data from the government's National Family Health Survey.

It is 5.4 per cent for the scheduled caste community. More than 25 per cent of the scheduled caste population falls in the lowest category by wealth, while it is 46.3 per cent for the scheduled tribe community.

The OBC community has 16.3 per cent of its population in the lowest wealth category and 19.2 per cent in the highest wealth category (chart 3).

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Anoushka Sawhney
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