RQ | Marrying out of caste – 2

We stay with our analysis of the National Family Health Survey data on marrying out of caste. In this edition we look at factors that lead to higher rate of inter-caste marriage.

Based on the data given, age definitely has an impact on the rate of inter-caste marriage. To put it in another way, considering the entire survey was conducted at a particular point in time, what this means is that the incidence of inter-caste marriages in India has been steadily increasing, though at a glacial pace.

Women aged 45-49 at the time of survey were only 8.5% likely to marry someone outside their caste, while women aged 15-19 at the time of survey were 11.75% likely to marry outside their caste. This shows there is definitely a shift in rate of inter-caste marriage, but it is a very slow shift.

The other factors that have been examined, however, seem to give fairly contradictory results (compared to “conventional wisdom”, that is), and that forms an important factor in the survey. For example, only 11.6% of rural women surveyed married out of caste while only 10.6% of urban women surveyed did so (while the difference looks small, the sample size makes it statistically significant), turning on its head the conventional wisdom that urbanisation might lead to higher incidence of inter-caste marriages.

Education shows a bizarre pattern, though. Women educated at the school (primary or secondary) level are more likely to marry out of caste than uneducated women (the difference is small, though), but this trend “regresses” as the women get further educated – women with higher education are less likely to marry out of caste than even uneducated women! The pattern is the same with respect to the woman’s husband’s education level also.

intercaste4

There are more sources of contradiction – working women are as likely to marry within caste compared to non-working women (while there is a small difference it is hardly statistically significant, despite the large sample sizes). Standard of living also has no impact on likelihood of marrying within caste (difference too small to be statistically significant).

The most surprising result, though is regarding “exposure to media” (I don’t know how they have measured it). The likelihood of marrying out of caste is highest among women who have declared their access to mass media as “partial exposure”, followed by women whose declared access to mass media is “no exposure”. Women with highest access to mass media (“full exposure”) have, quite counterintuitively, the smallest chance of marrying outside of caste (this is a statistically significant result with high degree of confidence)!

A reasonably dominant discourse nowadays in certain circles is that exposure to media, urbanisation and women going out to work are responsible for destroying “our culture”. If we take likelihood of marrying within caste as a proxy for “culture” (the one that must be preserved as per these worthies), it turns out that urbanisation, access to higher education and exposure to mass media actually help preserve this “culture”, while access to employment for women and nuclear families do little to “destroy” this culture!

Now if we assume the above correlation to imply causation, and incidence of same-caste marriages as preservation of “culture”, what we need to do to preserve our culture is to increase exposure to mass media, access to higher education for women and urbanisation. While we are at it, we can promote nuclear families and access to employment for women also!

If only the Khaps and other self-proclaimed preservers of culture were to look at hard data before making their pronouncements!