Measuring racial self-identification over the life course in Brazil, 1940-2013

Vitor Miranda, University of Pennsylvania


Most current social scientists agree that ideas of human races do not reflect fixed biological attributes, but social constructs. Yet, studies of racial stratification generally require the assumption that racial identities are predominantly fixed over one's life course. If one's race can change over time, then trends in racial stratification may reflect changes in group affiliation rather than changes in the groups' relative positions. Because of this, racial reclassification is often studied as a confounding factor hindering the development of reliable measures of social stratification. As a consequence, the statistical study of racial reclassification as an indicator of the dynamics of the social construction of race in a society is relatively underappreciated. This dissertation contributes to the literature on the social construction of race by investigating how Brazilians changed their racial self-identification over their life course between the years of 1940 and 2013. First, the residual method and data from the 1940 to 2010 Brazilian censuses is used to make inferences about the patterns of racial reclassification in this country over these seven decades. Second, longitudinal data from the 2002 to 2013 Brazilian Pesquisa Mensal de Emprego is used to provide a more comprehensive picture of the flows between the five racial categories included in the survey and to estimate patterns of racial reclassification by socioeconomic characteristics, such as education. Overall, the results indicate that, while between 1940 and 1990 there was a growing tendency for Brazilians to identify as a mixed-race population, the period after 1990 was particularly marked by a strong growth in self-identification as "black". These trends are discussed in light of the opposing theories of racial harmony and racial conflict that predominated in Brazil over this period. Taken together, this research demonstrates important ways in which the broad historic and geographic scope of the data and methods used in the statistical study of racial reclassification help move forward the debate around the meaning of race in Brazil.

Subject Area

Latin American Studies|Ethnic studies|Demography

Recommended Citation

Miranda, Vitor, "Measuring racial self-identification over the life course in Brazil, 1940-2013" (2014). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3623640.