Income Inequality in Education, and Children's Schooling Attainment in Brazil

Produced by: 
Instituto de Pesquisa Económica Aplicada (IPEA)
Available from: 
January 2015
Paper author(s): 
Ricardo Barros
David Lam
Education - Health
Poverty - Inequality - Aid Effectiveness

This paper analyses the determinants of schooling attainment at the household level for 14-year-olds in urban regions of Sao Paulo and Northeast Brazil, using data from 1982 PNAD. We find mean schooling of 4.75 years in Sao Paulo, and 3.25 years in the Northeast, both far short of the seven years of schooling that should have been completed by 14-years-olds. In attempting to explain the 1.5 year advantage in the schooling attainment of 14-years-olds in Sao Paulo, we find regional differences in the characteristics of parents that are consistent with the regional difference in child outcomes. Parents' schooling and income are considerably higher in Sao Paulo, and inequality in parental schooling is higher in the Northeast. Regression estimates imply substantial positive effects of parental schooling and income on child schooling attainment. Our results suggest that only a small portion of the gap in schooling attainment between Sao Paulo and the Northeast can be explained by differences in parental characteristics, however. Using our regression coefficients and mean characteristics in each region to predict schooling attainment off 14-year-olds, we are able to explain less that 20 percent of the 1.5 year schooling gap between the Northeast and Sao Paulo. This suggests that child schooling attainment will be relative unresponsive to improvements in the socio-economic status of household per se. The results suggest that direct increases in the quantity and quality of schooling supplied may be able to eliminate a large fraction of the schooling gap between regions, even in the absence of substantial changes in the socioeconomic status of parents.


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