Caste plays an equally important role as a source of migration. The most important feature is caste system that is an important aspect of social stratification. It is a closed endogamous social group in which social position is hierarchically arranged and ascribed.
The patterns of landownership and the distribution of occupational and educational opportunities remain very closely lined with caste groupings in India. As a result different caste groups have different degrees of access to economic, social and cultural resources. The caste system by its normative order differentiates various segments within and between the castes.
The hierarchical and localized nature of caste system, the rigidity of its rules, the strict adherence to them and the attachment to caste and its close knit boundaries tend to hamper spatial mobility but at the same time the caste system pushes the process of migration through the presence of a social basis of economic inequality and conflict.
The system of caste is root cause of differential values being attached to different castes, discrimination and tensions between the castes, differential resource distribution based on caste, consequent caste based categories such as landed, privileged and affluent on the one hand and the landless, deprived and the poor on the other and the exploitative social forms of relationship among the consequent categories. All these are very closely linked with caste based migration.
There are some studies that have shown the impact of caste on migration. They reveal that caste has a different effect on migration because different caste groups perceive migration differently and take decisions to move out accordingly. Their perceptions and motives of migration are regulated by the caste based socio-economic inequalities. For example if the caste position varies the perceptions and motives of migration also vary accordingly.
Since social caste and economic class inequalities co-exist there is both the caste and class selectivity in migration. The study of Rajasthan villages by Kothari shows that the propensity to migrate is high in upper and lower caste groups. This is confirmed by Yadav's study done in 1989 on the rural-urban migration in India. The upper caste migrants move to gain from migration while the lower caste migrants move for almost no gain.
The rate of migration varies by caste background; the economic status the caste and the role performed by the caste in the caste based social hierarchy. The relationship between caste and migration is complex and the available evidence in this respect is not conclusive.
The traditional caste system is breaking but caste survives as an ethnic unit and affects various aspects of life.