An outdated experiment to find the value of scholasticism amongst tamiL brAhmaNa-s

Foreword on date

This was done a long time ago, in 2008, when the young author (then a bachelor) was rediscovering his roots upon being struck by the contrast between the culture he was raised in and what he observed in USA. So, it is outdated, and in places potentially immature. But it is still worth archiving so, we’re copying here.

An anthropological experiment to find the value of scholasticism among Tamil Brahmins.

Purpose of the experiment:

I will suggest a very simple experiment to you. Our purpose here is to examine the “Brahminical qualities”/ “emphasis of learning over money”, “greater love of advanced learning” and to see if it is all hype, or if there is any truth behind the prejudice. Is there anything in the Brahmin culture and circumstance to cause Brahmins to be more likely to seek advanced learning?

Disclaimer (not a professional anthropologist) and request for criticism:

I do not have the resources, time and training of a professional anthropologist. I had a question in my mind, and I wanted a reliable answer with minimal expenditure of time and energy. It is likely that there are deficiencies in my methodology and analysis; and criticism is therefore very welcome.

However, the experiment has been, in my view, decisive enough for me to form an opinion based on actual fact.

The experiment (Main page version):

  1. Go to http://www.tamilmatrimony.com/.
    • Where else would you find easily available caste information together with education information?
  2. In the Quick Search bar, you will find “Female” between 18 and 30 selected. Select the Hindu religion, do not select a caste. Uncheck the “profiles with photos” option.
  3. Click search.
  4. Results will show up. In the right pane entitled “Refine your search”, select the Education tab and check PhD. 5. Select USA as the “country living in”. (A crude filter for degree quality.)
  5. Click on Search.
  6. Many results will appear. Do a page by page visual count. Calculate the fraction of Brahmins amongst the people you see.

Repeat the above experiment for males. (Make age range: 21 to 33.)

The experiment (using advanced search):

Note that finding the absolute number of Brahmin PhD holders by selecting the “Brahmin” as the caste option in the first page is problematic. Instead, using the advanced search option to select “Brahmin, Iyer, Iyengar, Gurukkal” is more reliable. Advanced search may also be used for finding the number of PhD holders among the general population.

Be careful to remove the “residing in USA” option while guaging the percentage of Brahmin profiles.

It appears that the website returns different data when different tools are used. The main page version of the experiment seems more reliable.

Null hypothesis:

If there is nothing in the Brahmin culture and circumstance which does not accord greater emphasis on advanced learning than in the general population, the Fraction of Brahmins amongst PhD holders should be commensurate with their percentage in the population, or with the percentage of Brahmin profiles posted.

Criticism and adjustment:

Also find the percentage of Brahmin profiles amongst all the profiles posted, for either sex, including all regions of the world. This can assuage to some extent, if not address, the criticism: “It is possible that tamils other than brahmins have a better way of seeking a match than tamilmatrimony.com.”

Information for further analysis:

The percentage of Brahmins in the Tamil Population is less than 3%. Since 1921, the fine state of Tamil Nadu has been a poineer in reservations! (Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reservation_in_India#Reservation_policy_in_Tamil_Nadu for further information.) They started by restricting Brahmins to 16% of total seats. Currently, by state law, 69% of the seats are reserved for backward castes, of which around 52% actually ends up getting used.

Results:

Dated July 18th, 2008.

It appears that the website returns different data when different tools are used. The main page version of the experiment seems more reliable.

Females:

Fraction of Brahmin profiles: .19 (8472/ 44582)

Fraction of Brahmin profiles according to search from main page: 0.0296 (340/11481), which is close to the actual fraction of Brahmins among Tamils.

Fraction of Brahmins amongst PhD holders in the USA: .75 (122/ 162).

Fraction of Brahmins amongst PhD holders in the USA according to search from main page: 0.719 (36+77)/157.

Overrepresentation based on population percentage (close to number of profiles according to search from main page): 25x.

Overrepresentation based on number of profiles: 3.94x.

Males:

Fraction of Brahmin profiles: 0.117 (18513/ 157812).

Fraction of Brahmin profiles according to search from main page: 0.0229 (3117/135788).

Fraction of Brahmins amongst PhD holders in the USA: .52 (315/ 602). (87+192)/510.

Fraction of Brahmins amongst PhD holders in the USA according to search from main page: .54 (87+192)/510.

Overrepresentation based on population percentage (close to number of profiles according to search from main page): 17.3x.

Overrepresentation based on number of profiles: 4.44x.

Qualifying statements:

We are concerned here with fractions rather than absolute numbers.

I do not disparage prowess in literature or the arts.

I do not disparage any honorable means of survival.

All cultures are not equal in all respects. (There is, for example, no mincing of words about the dominance of the Jewish people in academic research. Or of the amazing fecundity of Hungarians of recent times when it comes to mathematics.)

Conclusions:

Is there anything in the Brahmin culture and circumstance to cause Brahmins to be more likely (than the rest of the Tamil population) to seek advanced learning in the sciences? The fraction is smaller than what I expected; but it appears that the answer is a clear “yes”.

Can this result be extended to the arts and literature? I am not sure.

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