This paper contributes to research on affirmative action by examining issues of equity in the context of racial quotas in Brazil. We study the experience of the University of Brasilia, which established racial quotas in 2004 reserving 20% of available admissions slots for students who self-identified as black. Based on university admissions data and a student survey conducted by the authors, we find evidence that race, socioeconomic status, and gender were considerable barriers to college attendance and achievement. For example, first-difference regressions involving pairs of siblings indicate that black identity and gender had a negative effect on entrance exam scores. Moreover, we compare displaced and displacing applicants and find that racial quotas helped promote equity to some extent. Nevertheless, the scale and scope of redistribution were highly limited, and the vast majority of Brazilians had little chance of attending college, suggesting that more still needs to be done.
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