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Alysson Portella on racial social norms and education: “whitening” ideology and students’ performance in Brazil

Alysson Portella will present at the WIDER Seminar Series on 6 November 2019. 

Abstract - Racial social norms and education: “whitening” ideology and students’ performance in Brazil

We investigate to what extent racial social norms affect the performance of Brazilian students. Brazil’s racial ideology contrasts with that of the United States due to a more flexible racial classification system and an “whitening” ideology that promotes whiteness as a behavioural goal. Hence, we should not expect “acting white” (the social penalty imposed on minority students who excel at school) to be present in Brazil.

We test this hypothesis using data friendship networks and grades from 2500 student in 5 Brazilian public school. Preliminary results point out that among non-white students, while within-race popularity is not correlated with their grades, other-race social status and grades are positively correlated. Moreover, this positive association is stronger in classroom with lower average levels of racism.

We interpret these results of evidence for the “whitening” hypothesis, by which non-white students are more prone to interact with white students as their grades improve.

About the speaker

Alysson Portella is a PhD fellow at UNU-WIDER

WIDER Seminar Series

The WIDER Seminar Series showcases recent and ongoing work on key topics in development economics. The weekly sessions held in Helsinki are open to local and visiting researchers, policy makers, and others interested in development topics. Click here to learn more.

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