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Inequality of Opportunity in Brazil

Author

Listed:
  • Francois Bourguignon

    (World Bank, Washington)

  • Francisco H.B. Ferreira

    (World Bank, Washington)

  • Marta Menéndez

    (Université Paris Dauphine)

Abstract

This paper proposes a method to decompose earnings inequality into a component due to unequal opportunities and a residual term. Drawing on the distinction between ‘circumstance’ and ‘effort’ variables in John Roemer’s work on equality of opportunity, we associate inequality of opportunities with the inequality attributable to circumstances which lie beyond the control of the individual – such as her family background, her race and the region where she was born. We interpret the decomposition as establishing a lower bound on the contribution of opportunities to earnings inequality. We further decompose the effect of opportunities into a direct effect on earnings and an indirect component which works through the “effort” variables. The decomposition is applied to the distributions of male and female earnings in Brazil, in 1996. While the residual term is large, observed circumstances nevertheless account for around a quarter of the value of the Theil index. Parental education is by far the most important circumstance affecting earnings, dwarfing the effects of race and place of birth.

Suggested Citation

  • Francois Bourguignon & Francisco H.B. Ferreira & Marta Menéndez, 2005. "Inequality of Opportunity in Brazil," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 133, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:got:iaidps:133
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality of opportunity; earnings inequality; intergenerational mobility;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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