Racial Inequality in Education in Brazil: A Twins Fixed-Effects Approach

Abstract

Racial disparities in education in Brazil (and elsewhere) are well documented. Because this research typically examines educational variation between individuals in different families, however, it cannot disentangle whether racial differences in education are due to racial discrimination or to structural differences in unobserved neighborhood and family characteristics. To address this common data limitation, we use an innovative within-family twin approach that takes advantage of the large sample of Brazilian adolescent twins classified as different races in the 1982 and 1987–2009 Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios. We first examine the contexts within which adolescent twins in the same family are labeled as different races to determine the characteristics of families crossing racial boundaries. Then, as a way to hold constant shared unobserved and observed neighborhood and family characteristics, we use twins fixed-effects models to assess whether racial disparities in education exist between twins and whether such disparities vary by gender. We find that even under this stringent test of racial inequality, the nonwhite educational disadvantage persists and is especially pronounced for nonwhite adolescent boys.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This emphasis on skin color over racial identity is partly due to the multifaceted racial ancestry of most Brazilians. For much of the colonial period, white men outnumbered white women, yielding high levels of miscegenation between white men and nonwhite females (Telles 1995).

  2. 2.

    For a discussion on the categories of race used by the IBGE in Brazil, see Harris et al. (1993) and Telles (1995).

  3. 3.

    Monozygotic (MZ) twins would be the ideal analytical sample for this study because they share genetic characteristics and are of the same sex. Thus, twins fixed-effects models using a sample of MZ twin pairs would control for not only shared observed and unobserved family and neighborhood factors, as is the case in the current analytic sample of same-sex twins, but also for shared genetic characteristics that could potentially affect race labeling. Following past studies with lack of information on zygosity, we used the Weinberg method (Conley et al. 2006a, b; Torche and Echevarría 2011) to estimate a race effect on education for MZ twins. This method accurately estimates the number of MZ twins in the sample, therefore yielding an estimated race coefficient for MZ twins, for whom there is no issue of confounding zygosity or gender. Using the Weinberg method and the parameter estimates of our models, we obtained weighted race coefficients (available upon request) for MZ twins in all families that are consistent with the results presented here.

  4. 4.

    An issue with using household data to determine children’s relationships also found in previous research is that we may be missing children living outside the household (Cáceres-Delpiano 2006; Conley and Glauber 2006; Marteleto 2012). We may therefore be missing twin pairs if one sibling lives in the household and the other does not. One way to determine the severity of this problem is to compare a measure of number of siblings based on mother’s reports of their number of living children with the count measure we constructed using the household roster. We find a 94 % concordance rate between the count measure and the report measure provided by the PNAD. Although this measure does not provide information on twins, it assures us that we are not missing a large portion of siblings living outside the household, at least for 12- to 18-year-olds.

  5. 5.

    Exceptions are the 1982 and 1996 PNADs, for which a special module on social mobility was implemented.

  6. 6.

    Several researchers have employed this approach using the PNAD data to examine a variety of children and adolescent outcomes (e.g., Barros and Lam 1996; Duryea and Arends-Kuenning 2003).

  7. 7.

    In most cases, the household head or the spouse of the head is the respondent of the questionnaire (Telles 2004). Because the analytical sample in this study is composed of children of the head of the family, in most cases, one of the parents of the children examined identifies the child’s race.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Demography editor and anonymous reviewers for the helpful comments. We also thank Ed Telles for discussing the initial ideas of this article. This research was supported by Grant R24HD042849, Population Research Center, awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Grants R24HD041025 (Population Research Institute) and T32HD007514 (Training Program), awarded to the Population Research Institute at the Pennsylvania State University by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Letícia J. Marteleto.

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Marteleto, L.J., Dondero, M. Racial Inequality in Education in Brazil: A Twins Fixed-Effects Approach. Demography 53, 1185–1205 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0484-8

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Keywords

  • Race
  • Education
  • Brazil
  • Fixed effects