This paper investigates how the adoption of affirmative action for college admission affected the enrollment of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Brazil. We explore the time heterogeneity of policy adoption by universities to identify the policy impacts while accounting for contemporaneous confounding effects. Our study shows that the adoption of affirmative action increased the enrollment of students from groups explicitly targeted by each policy, particularly public high-school students and Blacks.1 We also demonstrate that these effects were concentrated within more competitive and more prestigious academic programs. Lastly, we find that universities that adopted affirmative action policies with explicit racial criteria experienced an increase in the enrollment of Black students whereas universities that adopted race-neutral policies had no significant changes in the racial profile of their students. These results indicate that affirmative action policies were successful in improving access to higher education for targeted groups. However, we also identify important limitations of these policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101931
JournalEconomics of Education Review
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Affirmative action
  • Brazil
  • College

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Economics and Econometrics


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