Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Jean-Pierre Bongila, Sarah Noonan, Chientzu Candace Chou


This case study in the qualitative inquiry investigated the social and economic conditions of scheduled caste engineers in India who utilized affirmative action known as caste-based reservation program, to complete their Bachelor of Engineering studies and proceeded onto an engineering career. I selected seven scheduled caste engineers (five males and two females) as participants in this study. Data collection methods consisted of in-depth interviews, documents, and personal reflexivity journals. Data analysis generated two major themes. The first theme summarized the participants’ socio-economic conditions before they received affirmative action while the second theme portrayed their lives afterward. The study revealed the existence of discrimination, overall poverty, social stigma, and lack of economic and social opportunities before affirmative action. Their economic conditions improved after affirmative action, although their social situation—marred with stigma and discrimination—either remained unchanged or worsened. Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), and critical race theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2012) explained that the formation of social groups (lower versus upper castes) and the ordinariness of racism (normalization of the caste system) could lead to the participants’ unchanged social conditions. One major recommendation is for the government of India to continue affirmative action benefits to the scheduled castes with more focus on improving their social conditions. Future studies could investigate the impacts of caste-based reservation system on other professions such as teaching, medicine, and management.


scheduled caste, upper caste, affirmative action, engineers, caste-based reservation system

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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