Difference Between Caste and Race

Key Difference – Caste vs Race

Race and caste are prevalent in many human societies and the difference between race and caste has its basis on the way each categorizes people in a society. The key difference between race and caste is that the race is a way of differentiating people based on physical characteristics. These changes are mostly determined by biological, social and cultural features. Caste, on the other hand, is a way of social stratification through which people are divided into several groups. Caste is mostly practiced and can be seen in South Asian countries. Let us look at the terms, caste and race, and the differences between them in detail here.

What is Race?

Race has been used as a way of giving an individual his/her group identity in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation. Race is biologically inherited. Thus, it is an ascribed status. In deciding a race, people have considered of the biological factors, cultural factors, language, skin color, religion, and may be social relationships as well. That means, we all belong to a particular race based on the above mentioned factors. However, it is impossible for an individual to change his/her race. Some scientists argue that race is not a biological production but some of the others point out that people can be distinguished based on their physical traits as well.

Since race is one of the major signals in differentiating among individuals, in some societies, this has become a tool of discrimination as well. Some people ill-treat the other groups of people based on their race. However, social scientists use race as a main variable in studying social inequality and stratification. Based on the race, some societies have formed their own ideologies believing that their race is the most superior and see others as lower. Anyhow, race can be seen in all the societies and we all belong to a particular race.

Difference Between Caste and Race

What is Caste?

Caste is a form of social stratification. Mostly in South Asian regions we see this caste based stratification system. Caste is an ascribed status. It cannot be changed unless a person him/herself changes it according to their own will. Caste is generationally inherited. It passes from one generation to another and individuals own it from their parents. However, caste is not a physical or biological feature. Nobody can guess a person’s caste by looking at the outside appearance. The caste system has been originated in ancient times as a way of differentiating peoples’ jobs or their professions. That means, one caste was assigned a specific job or a task. Kings and the ruling parties were considered as members of the higher castes whereas lower caste people were given jobs like pottery work, weaving, etc. Usually, the lower caste people were considered to be untouchables, and there was less social mobility for them in ancient times. Moreover, one’s caste could be revealed by referring to his/her name. In most Asian countries, people have various surnames, depending on their caste. However, in modern days, caste is not a barrier for social mobility and it is overlooked in many societies.

 Caste vs Race

Japanese Samurai and servant

What is the difference between Caste and Race?

Definitions of Caste and Race:

Race: Race is a way of differentiating people based on their physical features.

Caste: Caste is a form of social stratification not based on physical features but inherited by birth.

Characteristics of Caste and Race:


Race: Race is a biological feature, and we can differentiate races by looking at outside appearance.

Caste: Caste, though inherited at birth, cannot be determined by looking at the outer appearance of a person.


Race: Since race is a physical impact and connected with the outer appearance, it cannot be changed at all.

Caste: Caste is ascribed but if a person wants, he/she can change his or her caste and reappear in another name.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Brazilian people by Dantadd (CC BY-SA 2.5)
  2. Japanese samurai of importance and servant via Wikicommons (Public Domain)