This article considers the capacity of formal education to undermine established processes of caste and class reproduction in an area of north India, with particular reference to the views and strategies of educated Dalit young men. It draws on quantitative and qualitative research conducted by the authors in a village in Bijnor district, western Uttar Pradesh (UP). We discuss how educated Dalit young men perceive education, how they seek to use educational credentials to obtain ‘respectable’ jobs, and how they react when this strategy fails. Increased formal education has given Dalit young men a sense of dignity and confidence at the village level. However, these men are increasingly unable to convert this ‘cultural capital’ into secure employment. This has created a reproductive crisis which is manifest in an emerging culture of masculine Dalit resentment. In response to this culture, Dalit parents are beginning to withdraw from investing money in young mens’ higher secondary and tertiary-level education. Without a substantial redistribution in material assets within society, development initiatives focused on formal education are likely to be only partially successful in raising the social standing and economic position of subordinate groups.