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Classroom Segregation Without Tracking: Chance, Legitimacy, And Myth In “Racial Paradise”

Josh Gagne
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Though schools do not track in Brazil, I find that racial classroom segregation in Brazil is on par with recent estimates from North Carolina high schools (Clotfelter et al., 2020). How does racial classroom segregation occur without tracking, and in a supposed “racial paradise,” no less? Using national, student-level data spanning from 2011 to 2017, I describe racial classroom segregation among Brazilian 5th and 9th graders and assess potential mechanisms identified in the literature. The findings are consistent with segregation by chance in which (1) schools initially segregate students by using effectively random classrooms assignment practices and (2) schools choose to move forward with these initial assignments, even when they are highly segregating, rather than make race-conscious adjustments. This is consistent with the myth of racial democracy, a prominent colorblind ideology in Brazil that promotes the legitimacy of de facto racial segregation and undermines the legitimacy of race-conscious desegregation.

Educational Policy