Patterns of Racial and Educational Assortative Mating in Brazil

Abstract

Exchange of racial for educational status has been documented for black/white marriages in the United States. Exchange may be an idiosyncratic feature of U.S. society, resulting from unusually strong racial boundaries historically developed there. We examine status exchange across racial lines in Brazil. In contrast to the United States, Brazil features greater fluidity of racial boundaries and a middle tier of “brown” individuals. If exchange is contingent on strong racial boundaries, it should be weak or non-existent in Brazilian society. Contrary to this expectation, we find strong evidence of status exchange. However, this pattern results from a generalized penalty for darkness, which induces a negative association between higher education and marrying darker spouses (“market exchange”) rather than from a direct trading of resources by partners (“dyadic exchange”). The substantive and methodological distinction between market and dyadic exchange helps clarify and integrate prior findings in the status exchange literature.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Following Telles (2004), we define interracial sociability as the ease and frequency of social interaction across racial boundaries.

  2. 2.

    We use the terms lightness and darkness to indicate positioning on a graduated scale of racial categories that separate white from black at the extremes, not as a direct reference to skin tone, for which we have no direct data.

  3. 3.

    For two groups B and W, where F ij gives the number of married couples where the husband belongs to group i and the wife belongs to group j, the odds ratio of exogamy is calculated as F BW × F WB   / (F BB × F WW ).

  4. 4.

    Our approach uses difference coding, in which the estimated parameters give the differences between adjacent pairs on an ordinal scale variable. This approach differs from the more common dummy variable coding, which sets one category as the reference for all comparisons. Difference coding is preferred because it allows direct evaluation of the effects of a one-level increase in education for each particular level. There is no difference between the coding schemes in terms of model fit because the estimated parameters of one technique can easily be derived from the other.

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Acknowledgments

This article uses data from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, International (IPUMS-I). We thank the Minnesota Population Center and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics for making the data available. We are grateful to Matthijs Kalmijn for generously providing us with the code to replicate his model of status exchange. We thank Demography anonymous reviewers, Patricia Gwartney, Jill Harrison, Ryan Light, Matthew Norton, Eileen Otis, Jiannbin Shiao, Jessica Vasquez, and especially Paula England for helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Aaron Gullickson or Florencia Torche.

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Gullickson, A., Torche, F. Patterns of Racial and Educational Assortative Mating in Brazil. Demography 51, 835–856 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-014-0300-2

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Keywords

  • Interracial marriage
  • Status exchange
  • Marital sorting
  • Brazil
  • Race inequality