From EconWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Poverty and Inequality in Brazil

In Brazil's economic history since 1940, there is a tendency to have a few very wealthy individuals and a lot of people who were very poor. Lowering rates of inflation through more recent years has given the poor in Brazil more purchasing power but the gap between the rich and poor remains high. In the year 2000, 14.5% of Brazil's population was living below the poverty rate. That was the lowest rate Brazil had in many years. Brazil's GDP has from from 600 billion dollars (US) in 1995 to over 2 trillion dollars (US) today. However, this great increase in overall wealth has not however trickled down evenly amongst those in society as inequality remains high. The highest 10% of earners in Brazil earned nearly half of the income at 47.6% and the top percentile of earners had more total money than the bottom half combined. Brazil has the most unequal distribution of income in all of Latin America.

However, Brazil has begun to see the poverty gap shrink dramatically. Marcelo Neri, the head of the Getulio Vargas Foundation's Centre for Social Policies, has coordinated certain programs to help close the inequality gap. The study, "Pro-Poor Growth: The Brazilian Paradox", that Neri coordinated in association with the International Poverty Centre - a joint project between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Brazilian government to promote South-South Cooperation on applied poverty research - found that the poorest half of the population its per capita income rise by 14.11 percent in 2004, four times the average national increase. Ten percent was attributed to changes in the labour market - increased jobs and wages - and the rest to improved social coverage and social programmes like the "Family Grant" initiative, which provides financial aid to 9.2 million poor families. [1]

While these numbers reflect a level of inequality that is still very high, Brazil has engaged in programs to reduce this. The literacy rate in brazil has increased from 74.59% in 1980 to 90.04% in 2008. [2] These number coincide with most other countries in South America as many governments have put more emphasis on education. Despite this increase in literacy, Brazil is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to live. It currently ranks 4th in the World in Homicides per capita with an average of 23.8 homicides per 100,000 residents. These figures point to the disparity in wealth in Brazil as those who are poor have not seen there life improved as much as the nation's GDP would suggest.

One of the main causes of poverty throughout Brazil, and in the northeast in particular, is extreme inequality of land tenure. Good agricultural land is concentrated in the hands of a few. But smallholder farmers make up more than 84 per cent of the country’s farming sector, employing approximately 75 per cent of the rural labour force. Small-scale agriculture, known as ‘family agriculture’ in Brazil, produces over 50 per cent of the country’s food supply and a significant share of food exports. [3]


World Development Indicators and Global Development Finance - Google Public Data Explorer." Google. Web. <>. Not as Violent as You Thought." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 21 Aug. 2008. Web. <>.

  2. Brazil Literacy Rate." Brazil. Web. <>.
Personal tools