Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies

Major Professor

Jorge Nef, Ph.D.


Race, Racial discrimination, Capabilities, Functionings, Latent class modeling


This research analyzes welfare conditions of Afro-Colombians vis-à-vis non Afro-Colombians using Amartya Sen's Capability Approach as the theoretical framework, and the latent variable modeling as the empirical method. Multiple Indicators Multiple Causes (MIMIC) models are estimated using data from the Colombian Quality of Life Survey, 2003. Two latent constructs, namely, 'knowledge' and 'being adequately sheltered', represent the two 'Capability' dimensions to be analyzed. Ethnic background appears to have a consistently negative influence after controlling statistically by a set of relevant variables (e.g. being poor, area, marital status, age and gender, among others) included in the models as exogenous "causes" or "determinants" of each capability dimension.

This implies that the capability set or the freedom an Afro-descendant enjoys in achieving the life he or she wants in terms of 'knowledge' and 'shelter' is consistently lower than that of a non Afro-descendant (whites and mestizos). As a consequence, achieved welfare or functioning achievement as expressed in terms of aspects such as years of education or dwelling conditions in the household is and would be consistently lower for individual members of this ethnic group. This evidence points toward the proposition that embedded patterns of racial discrimination are limiting Afro-Colombian capabilities and individual agency, beyond income levels or even access to educational resources. Hence, from a capability perspective removing racial discrimination must be an explicit objective of developmental policy.

Accordingly, national policy must be directed not only to improving access for Afro-Colombians to resources and economic wellbeing, as traditional analysis of class disparity argues, but also toward the nurturing and expansion of the real freedom they have to pursue the goals they value. Thus, development policy in Colombia must altogether work toward the improvement of resource access for Afro-descendants and toward the creation of specific mechanisms to enforce the judicial instruments to fight against racial discrimination. These laws and judicial mechanisms were created to open spaces for political, social and economic participation for this population group on an equal basis, as their fellow citizens of non African descent, and are yet to be fulfilled.