Open Access
Monteiro Pereira Nunes, Evelyn
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 14, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Russell Wade Cooper, Dissertation Advisor
  • Russell Wade Cooper, Committee Chair
  • Kala Krishna, Committee Member
  • James R. Tybout, Committee Member
  • Liang Zhang, Outside Member
  • Education
  • Race
  • Returns to Education
  • Vouchers
The present dissertation consists of three essays related to economic development and human capital investment. The first essay investigates the choice between public and private schools in Brazil. I use cross-sectional survey data to show that families with higher income and schooling are less likely to enroll their children in public school. But if their race is black or brown, they are more likely to choose public schools, even when controlling for income, education and location. I do not find any evidence that this result comes from scarcity of private schools, race preferences, or residential segregation. But it is likely caused by the lower returns to education that black and brown individuals have. This essay shows that not only income and education matter for school choice in Brazil, but also race. The second essay explores the theory behind parental educational investments in the presence of heterogeneous returns. I build on the overlapping generations literature to study the investment that parents make on the education of their children, in a setting with private and public schools and different returns by group. This assumption is motivated by the findings in the first essay, and it results in different school choices based on income and returns. This difference in the educational investment leads to school segregation in equilibrium and may result in poverty traps. The third essay uses a quantitative approach to study the effects of implementing a voucher program in Brazil. I use simulated method of moments to estimate some parameters in a parental choice model, while calibrating others to the Brazilian economy. The estimation is used to evaluate how implementing private education vouchers compares with the non-voucher case. I find that vouchers increase the average human capital of the economy and reduce inequality measured by the Gini coefficient and coefficient of variation. In some cases it improves the welfare of the first generation affected by the voucher, while in others it will impose a welfare cost. For future generations there are large welfare gains of continuing this policy.