Affirmative Action and the Choice of Schools

Abstract

Race-neutral affirmative action in higher education has gained importance following the controversies over their race-based alternatives. In many settings, these interventions use a school-based criterion that selects beneficiaries relative to their peers. Exploiting a nationwide quota policy in Brazil that reserved a large share of vacancies in higher education for public-school students, I show that the reform increases the private-to-public school transitions, especially among students of low-performing private schools. In addition to a direct decrease in returns of the private-school investment, spillovers on indirectly exposed cohorts and general equilibrium effects in the school system might also explain the results.