Patterns of racial and educational assortative mating in Brazil

Aaron Gullickson

Exchange of racial for educational status has been documented for black/white marriages in the United States. Exchange may be an idiosyncratic feature of U.S. society, resulting from unusually strong racial boundaries historically developed there. We examine status exchange across racial lines in Brazil. In contrast to the United States, Brazil features greater fluidity of racial boundaries and a middle tier of “brown” individuals. If exchange is contingent on strong racial boundaries, it should be weak or non-existent in Brazilian society. Contrary to this expectation, we find strong evidence of status exchange. However, this pattern results from a generalized penalty for darkness, which induces a negative association between higher education and marrying darker spouses (“market exchange”) rather than from a direct trading of resources by partners (“dyadic exchange”). The substantive and methodological distinction between market and dyadic exchange helps clarify and integrate prior findings in the status exchange literature.