College Admission with Multidimensional Privileges: The Brazilian Affirmative Action Case

23 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2017

See all articles by Orhan Aygun

Orhan Aygun

Bogazici University

Inácio Bó

WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Date Written: November 2017


In August 2012 the Brazilian federal government enacted a law mandating the implementation of affirmative action policies in public federal universities for candidates from racial minorities, low-income families, and those coming from public high schools. We show that the method proposed by the government transforms the students' affirmative action status into a strategic choice, and may in fact create situations where high-achieving students who belong to those groups are not accepted to a university they desire while a low-achieving student who does not belong to those groups is accepted. Data from university admissions in more than 3,000 programs in 2013 show evidence consistent with this type of unfairness in more than 49% of those programs' assignments. We propose a choice function for the colleges that removes any gain from strategizing over the privileges claimed, is fair and, under reasonable assumptions on the type distribution of the population, fully satisfies the diversity objectives expressed by the law. We also propose an incentive-compatible mechanism that matches students and colleges with the use of the proposed choice function.

Keywords: Mechanism design, matching with contracts, college admissions, affirmative action, diversity

JEL Classification: C78, D63, D78, D82

Suggested Citation

Aygun, Orhan and Bó, Inácio, College Admission with Multidimensional Privileges: The Brazilian Affirmative Action Case (November 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Orhan Aygun

Bogazici University ( email )

Bebek, İstanbul 34342

Inácio Bó (Contact Author)

WZB Berlin Social Science Center ( email )

Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin, 10785


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