Segregation in education: the role of historical groups and the marriage market in Colombia

Coautores: Juliana Jaramillo y Carlos Andrés Álvarez

Invitado: Juliana Jaramillo Echeverri

PhD candidate from the London School of Economics.


Colombia is among the most unequal and least mobile countries in the world and the educational system in the country is socially exclusive. We aim at measuring the social segregation in the educational system to evaluate whether contemporary differences in the educational system have deep roots in the past.  Assuming that sufficiently rare surnames are part of the same extended family, we can trace dynasties of indigenous, encomenderos (Spaniard colonial officers), 19th century slave-owners, and members of different educational, social and business elites of the 17th, late 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Using microdata from different administrative sources, we observe contemporary outcomes on education and test if the historical status of each social group is associated with access to disadvantageous or privileged educational institutions. The results confirm that in several cases the original social status of the historical groups is highly associated with their contemporary performance in educational outcomes. We explore assortative mating as a possible mechanism behind these results, finding evidence of contemporary homogamy within the historical elites and ethnic surnames. We conclude that the educational system in Colombia reproduces patterns of social exclusion that are rooted in the past.