This article addresses these issues by focusing on the differentiated educational experiences of Hindu and Christian adivasi children and youth. Drawing on Douglas and Wildavsky,1 the article examines how young people’s perceptions of risk are at once embedded within historical livelihood practices and informed by their capacity to gain access to different forms of economic and social capital. The article will also show how locally valued knowledge, skills and status are at risk of being undermined and transformed through young people’s extended engagement with education. These potential costs are compared with the material (and immaterial) benefits that are commonly associated with schooling: the potential for employment and mobility outside of the village, along with the more ‘marginal’ returns that correspond with even the most negligible levels of education – ‘proper’ speech and comportment, enhanced marriage prospects. Finally, the article considers young people’s changing ideas of educational success, particularly in regard to their understanding of the risks associated with educational investment and their comparative positions of structural marginality.