Does money whiten? Intergenerational changes in racial classification in Brazil

  • Schwartzman L
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The idea that “money whitens” is a classic topic in the sociological literature on race in Brazil. This article estimates the extent to which socioeconomic status translates into racial boundary-crossing (“whitening” and “darkening”) across generations. I do so by highlighting specifically how parents’ racial classification of their children varies by status (i.e., parents’ own educational levels). Results from a national household survey (PNAD 2005) show that highly educated nonwhite parents are more likely to classify their children as white than are comparable less-educated nonwhite parents. This happens because (1) more-educated nonwhite parents are more likely to marry whites and less likely to marry nonwhites and (2) more-educated interracial couples label their children white more often than do less-educated interracial couples. Comparisons with 1996 data suggest that recent shifts in racial politics have offset the whitening effects of college education for nonwhite men with white wives. The results allow us to better understand the nature of racial boundaries in Brazil and lead us to reexamine the relationship between race and the inheritance of socioeconomic advantage.

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  • Luisa Farah Schwartzman

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