Working Paper
Double jeopardy?

Caste, affirmative action, and stigma

This paper presents the results of an attitude survey administered to university students in India that attempts to delineate the social–psychological mechanisms of ‘externalization’ and ‘internalization’ to understand the possible consequences of stigma associated with caste-based affirmative action (AA). Despite a significant gap in entry scores at admission to a higher educational institution, no significant differences are found in the effort and academic attitudes between students from beneficiary groups and those who get admission through non-reserved/open seats.

On a range of questions that evaluate externalization and attitudes towards AA, there are clear and significant differences between caste groups that reveal the presence of stigma through the externalization mechanism; that is, the tendency of peers to evaluate beneficiary performance prejudicially, indicating the prevalence of discriminatory attitudes towards students from target groups. However, there is no evidence of internalization; that is, students from beneficiary groups internalizing their peers’ low evaluation, resulting in low self-esteem and lower performance.

These findings suggest the need for establishing an anti-discriminatory apparatus inside higher educational institutions to counter stigmatizing attitudes and micro-aggressions against those admitted on the basis of AA.