Educação para todos –“free to those who can afford it”: human capital and inequality persistence in 21st c Brazil
As one of the world’s most unequal societies, Brazil is often referred to as a land of contrasts: the causes of its high levels of income inequality continuously debated. When solutions are discussed, one of the more frequently recited policy prescriptions is to expand the supply of education within the economy. Through utilisation of socio-economic profiles of students who subscribed to and were enrolled in Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), one of the more progressive public higher education establishments, the data indicates that, between1987- 2010, the Brazilian education system could in fact have exacerbated inequality, despite society having undertaken national educational expansion. The data illustrates how, during the period analysed, less than 35% of UNICAMP students attended only public education; and that moreover, while 61% had attended entrance examination preparation courses, nearly three quarters of participants at these examinations failed to be enrolled at the first time of asking. It is also estimated that more than 60% of UNICAMP students are from households from the 9th and 10th income decile. With the socio-economic profiles of public higher education tending to favour high income households, the curative effects of educational expansion on income inequality appear to be paradoxical. Therefore, a more qualitative approach to public education expansion may be required if a more egalitarian society is to be engendered by tuition-free public higher institutions.
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