Affirmative action in Brazil: how students’ field of study choice reproduces social inequalities

Alice Dias Lopes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper aims to understand which fields of study affirmative action students graduated at the undergraduate level in public universities in Brazil in 2009 and 2010. Public universities began expanding access for underrepresented groups through racial, economic, and social affirmative action policies in 2001. The existing literature on affirmative action policies in Brazil focuses on the impact of affirmative action on the demographic characteristics of the student body, and on students’ performance. Using the Higher Education National Exam database from 2009 and 2010, this paper makes an important contribution to this literature by demonstrating that affirmative action students from public universities tend to graduate in less prestigious fields of study. This is likely to translate into less eminent occupational opportunities and lower earnings in the labor market. Drawing on Reproduction theory, this paper provides evidence that, despite affirmative action policies, education continues to reproduce social inequalities in Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2343-2359
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2016


  • affirmative action
  • higher education
  • fields of study
  • social inequalities
  • Brazil


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