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Cana, café, cacau: agrarian structure and educational inequalities in Brazil*

  • Tim Wegenast (a1)

Abstract

The present paper explores the relationship between agrarian structure and human capital formation between and within Brazil’s federal units. It is argued that whether states’ agriculture is in plantation style, based on cheap coerced labor, or organized around family farming matters for the formulation of educational policies. According to the main claim, landlords were not interested in paying higher taxes to educate the masses and curtailed the expansion of schooling in order to keep a cheap workforce and maintain their monopoly over the decision-making process. Describing several episodes in Brazil’s history of public instruction, the paper stresses the distributional conflicts over education as well as the rural aristocracy’s resistance towards broadly-targeted, citizenship-enhancing educational policies. The descriptive evidence is complemented by statistical analyses employing historical as well as more recent data. It is shown that states characterized by a more egalitarian land distribution, which are not under the dominance of powerful landlords, exhibit better educational coverage and enhanced instruction quality. They also spend more on schooling.

El presente artículo estudia la relación entre la estructura agraria y la formación de capital humano, tanto dentro como entre las unidades federales de Brasil. Se argumenta que la agricultura de los Estados es de estilo plantación — basado en mano de obra forzada barata, o por el contrario organizada alrededor de la granja familiar — es crucial para la formulación de las políticas educativas. De acuerdo a esta hipótesis, los propietarios de la tierra no estaban interesados en pagar impuestos más altos para educar a las masas y restringieron la expansión escolar con la intención de mantener una mano de obra barata y el monopolio del proceso de toma de decisiones. A través de la descripción de distintos episodios de la historia de la instrucción pública en Brasil, el artículo muestra los conflictos distributivos sobre la educación y la resistencia de la aristocracia rural en relación con los más amplios objetivos ciudadanos para intensificar las políticas educativas. La evidencia descriptiva se complementa con el análisis estadístico de datos históricos y recientes. Se muestra que los Estados con una distribución más igualitaria de la tierra, que no están bajo el dominio de poderosos propietarios de la tierra, tuvieron una mejor cobertura y calidad educativa. Asimismo, demostramos que invirtieron más en escolarización.

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Cana, café, cacau: agrarian structure and educational inequalities in Brazil*

  • Tim Wegenast (a1)

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