Friday, January 11, 2013

Brazil and inequality

Brazil is renowned for  being the world champion in overall income inequality. This inequality is the root of nearly all of Brazil's major social problems, including its poverty, poor health and education systems, high rates of crime, and the lack of social and political integration of the majority of the population. The fact that black and brown men earn 40 to 50 percent of white men in Brazil, while black men earn 75 percent of white men in the USA, reflects the great income inequality.

The top 10 percent of Brazilians earn incomes worth 52 percent of total income of all Brazilians. South Africa has the second most unequal structure among large countries, in which the top 10 percent of South African earners control 47 percent of the country's total income. In the USA, the top 10 percent control 25 percent of the country's total income. This high rate of poverty, coupled with a sizable number of persons in the top rung, reflects the status of Brazil and South Africa as the two most unequal large countries in the world.

In Brazil, South Africa and the USA, whites tend to be concentrated near the top and blacks near the bottom, although the differences in racial distribution vary. Racial inequality in Brazil derives mostly from the near absence of nonwhites in the middle class and above, rather that the absence of whites among the poor.

In a study carried out by Lopes in 1989, he found out that 50 percent of all black and brown households in Brazil are poor in 1989, compared to only 22 percent of white households. Poverty is here understood as the minimum income needed to satisfy all of the basic need of an individual, including food, access to schools, health services, water, and sanitation.

By 1980, Brazil has become the seventh-largest economy in the capitalist world. Brazil's high income is largely the result of the top 5 or 10 percent earning much more than the rest. Since the 1950's, Brazil has experienced termendous economic growth, making it one of the worlds largest industrial economies in the world. Brazil has grown from a rural to an urban society.
Kaare T. Pettersen
Telles, Edward E. (2004) Race in Another America. The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Foto taken by Kaare T. Pettersen during a visit to Rio de Janeiro in 2012

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