Public higher education in Brazil: costs, benefits and distributive effects

Abstract This paper addresses one aspect of equity: income, associated with the access to and funding of public universities in Brazil. As in other countries, the usual perception is that Brazilian public universities are free and attended mainly by high income students. In line with Barbaro (2005), considering the main public spending with higher education and the related tax costs, we estimate a net benefit by income decile. We observe for Brazil a net transfer of the richest 20% to the rest of the population and a concentration of net benefit in the 4th to the 7th decile range of per capita household income. Therefore, considering only the public budget for higher education, this net transfer would not reach the poorest 30% of the population, but it would still mitigate the significant inequality of Brazilian income.