Spheres of influence. The educational aspirations of favela youth in Rio de Janeiro
This is an ethnographic study about the factors that intervene in the Brazilian favelas’ youth’s decision to pursue post-secondary education. The fieldwork was performed over the course of years 2009 and 2013 in the Rocinha favela of Rio de Janeiro. Results indicate that there are three types of social factors that play an interactive role in such decision: the family, the community environment and the outside world. These three socialization spaces influence the individuals (young men and women) with different intensity. The extensive family constitutes the inner sphere and the most powerful determinant for the future educational aspirations of the youth. The views they have in the present reflect in good part what their family members taught them to believe. The second sphere, the community environment, covers the inner sphere and it is mainly formed by peers, family friends and community organizations, many of which include role models. The third and outer sphere is the outside world provides the youth with alternative models as well as with information about a wide variety of lifestyles. Educational opportunities that favela youth have in their lives depend on the availability, cost and quality of schools (secondary and post/secondary institutions), but also on their own motivations to seek opportunities to study for a better future. The outcome of the interaction of these factors in the individual is a set of typologies of attitudes toward social inequality and social mobility (varying from “pessimistic” to “optimistic”) and education (varying from “effective” to “undesired”). Such typologies contribute to the definition of future educational plans.