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Double disadvantage: Institutional structure and compensatory advantages in Brazilian higher education




School performance, Horizontal stratification, Meritocracy, Socioeconomic status, Compensatory advantages


This paper examines the interaction between family income and academic performance in determining access to public and private higher education in Brazil during the expansionist period since the 1990s. The study aims to answer three questions: (a) how do family income and academic performance affect the likelihood of accessing higher education? (b) to what extent can low income be compensated for by good grades or vice versa? (c) how do these inequalities manifest in the division between public and private higher education? Using administrative data, we constructed a panel of high school graduates in 2012 who were followed for five years after completing secondary education. The results indicate that, for admission to public institutions, which are tuition-free and prestigious, academic performance is the most important predictor, and the advantage of wealthier students depends on their higher chances of obtaining better grades. In contrast, for entering private institutions, the socioeconomic gap is almost independent of grades, and privileged individuals have a higher chance of admission despite poor academic performance. We conclude that the horizontal stratification of the Brazilian education system shapes the occurrence of dual advantages for students from privileged backgrounds: compensatory advantages in accessing the private sector and cumulative advantages in accessing the public sector, due to their respective privileges of origin and probabilities of obtaining higher grades.


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How to Cite

Senkevics, A. S., Carvalhaes, F., Ribeiro, C. A. C., & Barbosa, R. J. (2023). Double disadvantage: Institutional structure and compensatory advantages in Brazilian higher education. In SciELO Preprints.


Human Sciences
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