Infant mortality is down, but social inequality is up.
The Catholic Church lost more than a few
to the evangelicals, and marriages have become less frequent.
The Indian population has more
than doubled and the number
of telephones has increased, but the earning power
of the poor has not.
It’s time to take on Brazil’s
Census latest figures.
The new numbers culled from IBGE’s (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e EstatísticaBrazilian Institute of
Geography and Statistics) 2000 Census put the Cardoso administration into a celebratory mood. And there was plenty of reason to
celebrate, they said. After all, Brazil has shown that it was taking better care of its kids, being able to lower by 38 percent the infant
mortality to 29.6 deaths per 1000 live births from 48, in 1991 when the previous census was taken. (Compare this to 6.76 deaths per
1000 in the US, 4.46 in France, and 3.47 in Sweden.)
In other words, from 1991 to 2000, 404.130 children less than one year old didn’t have to die in Brazil. This
improvement made it possible for the country to reach the UN goal for 2000, envisioned at the 1990 Word Summit for Children, of 32
infant deaths per one thousand born alive babies. In the Northeast, the decline of the death rate in a decade was almost 40
percent, going from 73 deaths per 1000 babies to 44 deaths, what is still well above the United Nations goal.
Commenting on this information, political scientist and social sciences professor Fernando Abrucio, said, "These are
the only figures that show a qualitative improvement in the life of Brazilians." Another bright spot was the revelation that
94.9 percent of all children between the ages of seven and 14 are enrolled in school.
Still according to the census data, 120 million Brazilian are able to read and write. While in 1991 the percentage of
people able to read was 59.9, this number has raised to 72.4 in the last census survey. In the rural area, this number went from
59.9 percent to 72.4 percent. Despite the improvement, though, Brazil still has 17.6 million illiterate people 10 years old or older.
An information that might warm the hearts of indigenists and ecologists the world over: the indigenous population
in Brazil has grown by 138 percent since the last census in 1991. There are now 701.462 Indians in the country,
representing 0.4 percent of the Brazilian population. People involved with the Indian movement were expecting that would be only
400,000 Indians in the year 2000. How to explain this unforeseen increase? For some indigenist leaders it has to do with the
Indians themselves taking control of their plight.
In an interview with Rio’s daily O Globo, Maiuruna native Genival de Oliveira dos Santos, suggested that this
growth has to do with the fight of the Indians to assure that their rights are respected. According to him, an important factor
was the Indian assuming its identity. "We’re not afraid of being Indians anymore," said dos Santos. "Today the Indian is
assertive in revealing his origin because he understands that he is a citizen and not an insignificant someone."
For Idenício Suzana Bastos, a councilman in Benjamin Constant and director of Federação das Organizações e dos
Caciques e Comunidades Indígenas da Tribo Ticuna (Federation of Ticuna Tribe’s Organizations and Chiefs and Indigenous
Communities) the Indian population is probably even larger than reported. He is skeptical of the census results and wonders if
census workers interviewed people in faraway places like his own town, which is 693 miles from Manaus, the capital of
Amazonas state. Benjamin Constant has 27,000 residents and a demographic density of 3.11 inhabitants per sq km.
On the other side of the argument are those who think that these numbers might have been inflated. Benedito
Rangel, regional administrator of Funai (Fundação Nacional do ÍndioNational Indian Foundation), for example, does not
believe that the Indian population grew so much in the last decade and says, "To be an Indian it’s not enough that you say that
you are one. You also have to be recognized by the people as such."
Wired and Connected
The IBGE found out that 80 percent of homes in Brazil have radio, television and a refrigerator. Among the 44 million
residences in the country, 37.2 million use a refrigerator, 38.9 million have a TV set and 39.1 million listen to the radio. The consumer
goods that had their biggest jump in popularity since the latest census, however, were the telephone, the washing machine and
the automobile, all goods that can be considered superfluous in Brazil.
Since the previous Census in 1991, the number of Brazilians with a washing machine increased by 26 percent, and
those with a car by 42 percent. While ten years ago only 18.6 percent of the families had a telephone, today this number went
up to 39.7 percent. Home computers were included for the first time in the study and they are present in 10.6 percent of homes.
Some basic needs had a substantial improvement in a decade. Electric power is now present in 93 percent of all
homes up from 86.9 percent ten years ago. Sewerage, which could be found in only 52.4 percent of homes, now exists in 62.2
percent of them, still a very low number.
It was also found that people are finding their own space to live. While in 1991 the percentage of homes in which
more than three people had to share the same room was 17.7 percent, this number has fallen to 9.3 percent in the last census.
According to Sérgio Besserman, IBGE’s president, Brazil is starting the new century with advancements in the areas
of education and infrastructure, but it has little to show when the subject is income distribution. From 1991 to 2000, the
economic gap between the richer South and Southeast and the poorer North and Northeast did not change. But he is optimistic
and also says that the data show "a dynamic society, which is in the move, improving the conditions of life for the Brazilian people."
There was no reason for jubilation over some of the findings though, like the revelation that one in every four
workers (24.4 percent) in Brazil earn minimum wage (200
reais, around $80) or less a month. In the Northeast the situation is even
worse, with 46.2 percent of the workers making the minimum or less. Earning disparity in the country continues to be one of the
worst in the world. A mere 2.6 percent of workers make more than 20 minimum wages a month ($1600). Most of Brazilian
workers (51.9 percent) have to survive with around two minimum wages.
As a consequence of being the capital of Brazil until 1961, Rio de Janeiro has a disproportionate number of retired
public servants. This gives Rio a large population of retired workers earning more than 20 minimum wages a month. While in
the state of Piauí, 59.4 percent of workers earn one minimum wage or less, Rio has 15.2 percent of workers in this situation,
with most of its workers (26.5 percent) making between one and two minimum wages.
Despite the fact that the presence of a refrigerator is almost universal in Brazil today, approximately 7.5 million people
don’t have one at home. This situation led Elisa Lustosa Caillaux, an IBGE researcher, to comment, "Refrigerator is one of most
basic goods and necessary to survival. Who are those seven million who live without having a place to conserve their food?"
The last Census number show also a country with a large population with some kind of physical deficiency, with
24.5 million Brazilians, or 14.5 percent of the population showing some incapacity. There are, for example, 16.5 million
visually impaired, and 159,000 of them are blind. Another seven million have tetraplegia, paraplegia or hemiplegia. And 8.3
percent of the population suffers from permanent mental impairment.
There is much disparity between the regions of the country. While the Southeast presents sometimes numbers that
rival those of a First World nation, in the Northeast the situation is much worse. Case in point, infant mortality is more than
double in the Northeast (44 deaths for every 1000 kids born alive) when compared to Southeast states, which include São Paulo,
Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais.’
The Northeast, as the case has been for decades, continues to export its population mostly to the Southeast. From
1995 to 2000, 1.4 million people left the Northeast, 70.9 percent of them going mostly to São Paulo and Rio. The number of
foreigners, however, is on the decrease. They were 767,000 in 1991 and have become now 734,000.
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who is a world-renowned sociologist, didn’t like some of the numbers
revealed by the Census Bureau. He questioned the study’s accuracy, criticized the discrepancy between income and
consumption and even suggested changes in the methods used to collect data. "Either we have not consumed that much or we have
not earned so little," he declared. See the President’s speech in
Portuguese, in its entirety, here:
End of a Myth
The Census data seem to put to rest a national and world perception that
Fluminense (Rio state residents) are laid
back, lazy even, and that they work little.
Paulistas (those from São Paulo) have carried for decades the reputation of being
much more hard workers than their countrymen from Rio. As the numbers see it, the Paulista superiority in work ethic was just
While 44.3 percent of Rio workers (2.39 million people) toil for 45 hours every week or more, the percentage of those
from São Paulo who do the same is 43.5 percent. According to the 1988 Brazilian Constitution, the workweek is limited to 44
hours and workers must have a weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours.
Every minute worked over 44 hours is considered overtime and excessive overtime is forbidden by the meticulous
constitution. Nationally, 43.7 percent of workers labor more than 44 hours a week and this situation is more accentuated in
the Midwest, where 31 percent of the workforce sweats past 49 hours a week.
Brazil might be getting older, but the median age of Brazilians is still 24.2. Between 1991 and 2000, the median age of
the populationthe middle value between the older and younger Braziliansincreased by two years and a half. Rio has the
highest median, with half of its population below the age of 28.1, while the state of Amapá has the lowest median, with 50
percent of the population 18.3 years old or less.
In Brazil a whole, for every 100 children 15 years old or less, there are 20 people who are 65 or more. In the previous
census, there were 14 elderly people for every 100 kids. While the number of youngsters, in the period between 1991 and 2000,
has decreased from 34.73 percent of the population to 29.60, the senior population has grown from 4.83 to 5.85 percent.
Black and Proud
Many people were surprised to find out through the Census figures that more Brazilians have decided to assume
their blackness. Now, 6.2 percent of the respondents have stated that their color is black. In the previous census, 5 percent of
them admitted being black. At the same time, there was less people calling themselves
pardo (mulatto, the official denomination for people of mixed race in Brazil), preferring instead to classify themselves as white.
Following an international model of sampling in which the interviewee states his own color, the Brazilian Census
bureau found out that 53.7 percent of Brazilians call themselves white; 39.1 percent,
pardos; 6.2 percent black; 0.5 percent,
yellow; and 0.4 percent indigenous. As expected, the majority of those who consider themselves white live in the South of the
country where there was a significant influx of European immigrants mainly from Italy and Germany.
In the South, 84.2 percent of the respondents said they were white. This percentage fell to 64.2 percent in the
Southeast. In that region, 30 percent stated that they were
pardos, while 6.6 percent opted for black. In Bahiaa northeastern
statethere was the largest contingent of blacks and
pardos: 75.7 percent.
Journalist Nilza Iraci, 52, interviewed by Brasília’s daily
Correio Braziliense, was one of the 5.3 percent Brazilians
heard by the Census who stated their color as being black. Iraci could have called herself white as 53.7 percent of Brazilian
did, after all, it’s there in her birth certificate: white. She could have preferred the word
pardo to classify herself39.1 percent of Brazilians have done this.
"I see myself as black," she says. "And I know that to accept this is not an easy process." For her, the pride of
being black came with her political formation. "When I present myself, socially, as a black, I know that I am depriving myself
of a series of advantages. When there is an interview for a job, for example, I have an advantage when competing with
someone with a darker skin than mine. In this case I’m considered brunette. When the competitor is a white person, then I am the
black. There is a racial pyramid in the country."
Being from mixed race she has also faced prejudice from blacks. In a racism congress in the early ’90s she heard an
activist like her commenting, "I didn’t know our organization is already accepting whites." And when defending the rights of
black women in another meeting, she was questioned by a white colleague, "But why are you saying all these thing when you
are not even black?"
Commenting on this phenomenon, Lúcia Helena Rangel, an anthropologist at PUC-SP (Pontifícia Universidade
Católica de São PauloSão Paulo Pontifical Catholic University) told weekly newsmagazine
Isto É, "Black people are learning to
appreciate themselves, but it’s still a lie that blacks make up only 6 percent of Brazilians."
Surprising also was to find out that the number of evangelicals in Brazil almost doubled in the last decade, going
from 9.1 percent of the population to 15.4 percent. Rio de Janeiro and Rondônia were the two states in which this growth was
more evident. While Rondônia is a frontier land, open to immigrants and new ideas, Rio is known for its lay down approach to
life and mores. In Rio, only 57.2 percent of the respondents admitted being Catholic and 15.5 percent said to have no
religion. As for the evangelicals, they represent a bigger chunk of the population in the states of Rondônia (27.7 percent),
Espírito Santo (27.5 percent), Roraima (23.6 percent), Rio de Janeiro (21.1 percent), Goiás (20.8 percent ) and Acre (20.4 percent).
For anthropologist Regina Novaes, a professor at UFRJ (Universidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de Janeiro
Federal University) and coordinator of ISER (Instituto de Estudos da ReligiãoInstitute for the Studies of Religion) the
numbers are a portrait of Carioca life, "Rio embraces diversity as a positive sign. People without religion, which I use to call
religious individuals without religion, are those who link several different concepts and synthesize them."
The 71 percent growth of evangelicals11 million people were converted to an evangelical religion from 1991 to
2000came at a heavy cost for the Catholic Church, which lost 12 percent of its flock. The number of Catholics fell from 83.8
percent in 1991 to 73.8 percent in the year 2000. This loss seems less dramatic, however, when we know that the vast majority of
Brazilian Catholics don’t practice their religion and rarely go to church, very differently from evangelicals who are an active
minority. Since the population grew 15.6 percent in the nine year period between the two Censuses, evangelicals multiplied at a
rate five times bigger than that of the Brazilian population.
"The evangelical god is much more attuned to the interests of the believers," says Novaes. A typical example of the
new convert, Danielle Franco, 36, from Rio, who grew up in the Catholic faith, told Rio’s newspaper
Jornal do Brasil, "After my parents broke up, I felt abandoned and looked for help at an evangelical church frequented by a friend. There I felt
welcome. People are committed to the religion and the pastors give you more attention."
As Antônio Miguel Kater Filho, president of the IBMC (Instituto Brasileiro de Marketing CatólicoBrazilian
Institute for Catholic Marketing) commented, "Evangelicals are very aggressive when looking for and maintaining their adepts.
They catechize as an Avon’s sale representative. They use advertising, are excellent in word of mouth and prepare their
pastor with persuasion techniques."
The Catholic demise can also be seen in other areas. In the last five years alone 130 schools maintained by the
Catholic Church were closed, with a loss of 200,000 students. While pastors look after small communities of 1,000 faithful or less,
priests are overburdened with parishes that can have 20,000 people or more.
The largest percentage of Catholics are in the Northeastern states starting with Piauí, where 91.3 percent of the
population confess to be Catholic. In Ceará there are 84.9 percent Catholics; in Paraíba, 84.2 percent; and in Maranhão 83 percent.
The evangelical boom in Brazil has been the subject of social studies and dozens of theses have been written in the
last two decades about the phenomenon, according to
Jornal do Brasil. In one of them, `’Análise Sociológica Sobre o
Crescimento Pentecostal no Brasil” (Sociological Analysis About the Pentecostal Growth in Brazil), from 2001, sociologist Ricardo
Mariano, from Universidade de São Paulo (USP), tries to explain why protestant religions are not as successful in the Brazilian
Northeast as they are in other regions of the country: "Less than 10 percent of
Nordestinos were converted to evangelism. They
have a popular Catholicism deeply ingrained, which offers cure and miracles the same way as Pentecostals do."
The number of Brazilians who say that they have no religion has also increased by 55 percent. They are 7.3 percent
according to the latest census and were 4.8 percent in the previous study. Many people who previously called themselves
Catholics, apparently, think they are more truthful when they say that they have no religion. Some studies have shown that a mere
15 percent of Brazilian who say they are Catholic practice their religion.
In the 1890 Census, when there were 14 million Brazilians, less than 150 or 1 percent responded that they were
evangelical. That same year, 89.8 percent of the population declared to be Catholic. Curiously, in the latest Census, a mere 1.4
percent admitted being spiritist and a number unbelievably low (0.3 percent) confess to be
umbandistas and candoblecistas
(religions rooted in African tradition). For Regina Novaes, some have converted to Pentecostal denominations, but "others
continue defining themselves as Catholics, without abandoning the
centros and terreiros (Candomblé and Umbanda temples)
And nothing prevent them from combining beliefs and practices with others coming from the "new era" universe."
Marrying in the Church as well as in a civil ceremony is still the rule for Brazilian couples, but in one decade it has
increased by 55 percent the number of those who opted for a common law union, which doesn’t require any kind of written
contract. In 1991, 57.8 percent of men and women who lived together were formally married and 18.3 percent assumed being in a
common law union. In 2000, legal marriages fell to 50.1 percent, while consensual unions rose to 28.3 percent.
Officially then, 54.2 percent of Brazilians are single, 37.2 percent are married, 4.6 percent are widowers/widows, and
3.7 percent are separated. Curiously, the IBGE remarks that among the single population, 45.9 percent are between 10 and 19
years old, an age period in which there is a high rate of consensual unions.
Families are getting smaller. While a family had an average of 3.9 people in 1991, this number fell to 3.5 in 2000.
Women are now responsible for 26.7 percent of the 48.2 million Brazilian families. In 1991, 20.5 percent of women were head of
For Brazilian women, life does not get easier when they get older. While 70.9 percent of men are living with
somebody by the age of 70, women often have to live alone in their old age. Between the ages of 15 and 19, there are five times
more married women (15.1 percent against 3.3 percent) than married men. The rate of married women start to fall when they
reach 35. Men start marrying after they are 20 and go through life in stable relationships.
"This difference expresses a widely recognized social behavior concerning the difficulty of remarrying that women
have starting at certain age," observes the IBGE report.
According to Mireya Soarez, from UnB’s (Universidade de Brasília) Department of Anthropology, "the typical
partner for the Brazilian man is a woman in her reproductive phase, while women look for a financially established man as the
ideal partner." The information gathered from the Census, she notes, also reflects the option for individualism of the modern
woman. "Women have been opting for a professional life," Soarez points out.
SO MANY QUESTIONS
From 1900 to 2000 the Brazilian population went up almost 10 times. Official numbers show that there were 17.438.434
Brazilians in December 1900. In August 2000, the census bureau found 169.799.170 Brazilians residing in Brazil, which is 23 million
more people than in 1991. The population’s growth rate, which reached 2.48 percent in the ’70s has fallen to 1.64 percent.
That’s because fertility levels are now 2.3 children per woman. Compare this to the `60s when every woman had an average of
6.2 children. The IBGE expects the fertility rate to continue declining in the years to come.
Since 1960, the IBGE, which takes a census every ten years, uses differentiated questionnaires to collect its data.
While the Brazilian Census, which occurred in the 5.507 municipalities of the country between August 1st and November 30 of
2000, had a basic battery of questions that were used in 54.2 million homes, 5.8 million families (a little over 20 percent of the
total population) were submitted to a much more detailed questionnaire with 90 questions. The answers to these questions
were the fodder for the data just divulged by the Brazilian Census Bureau.
To cover Brazil’s 5507 municipalities spread throughout 27 states and 8.5 million square km (5.2 million square miles)
the IBGE hired more than 200,000 workers. The final results of the latest census are not expected before the end of 2003.
Color Me Rainbow
As a matter of principle, the IBGE completely ignores the impression that an interviewer might have about the race
of the interviewee. "We do this in order not to embarrass people. The interviewee is the one who indicates his/her own
color and the census workers are instructed to never discuss or question an answer for more absurd that it might seem,"
explains Walker Moura, director of the IBGE’s research department.
To ease the prejudice they have towards their own skin color Brazilians use the most unusual names. Two years ago,
during an IBGE study with close to 34 million Brazilians, called "The Denominated Color", interviewees were asked "What is
your color or race?" The institute didn’t present any option for the respondents to choose from. There were 127 different
answers, including, white, brunette, mulatto, Brazilian, brown, chocolate, cinnamon, and mixed. In another survey, this one from
1976, there were even more answers: 134. They are all here, in alphabetical order, as found at the
Acastanhada (cashew like tint; caramel colored)
Agalegada (Galician white)
Alva (pure white)
Alva-escura (dark or off-white)
Alverenta (or aliviero, "shadow in the water")
Alvarinta (tinted or bleached white)
Alva-rosada (or jamote, roseate, white with pink highlights)
Alvinha (bleached; white-washed)
Amarela-queimada (burnt yellow or ochre)
Avermelhada (reddish, with blood vessels showing through the skin)
Azul-marinho (deep bluish)
Bem-branca (very white)
Bem-morena (very dusky)
Branca-avermelhada (peach white)
Branca-melada (honey toned white)
Branca-morena (darkish white)
Branca-queimada (sunburned white)
Branca-sardenta (white with freckles)
Branca-suja (dirty white)
Branquiça (a white variation)
Bronzeada (bronzed tan)
Bugrezinha-escura (dark with Indian characteristics)
Burro-quanto-foge ("burro running away," implying racial mixture of unknown origin)
Cabocla (mixture of white, Negro and Indian)
Cabo-Verde (black; Cape Verdean)
Café-com-leite (coffee with milk)
Castão (thistle colored)
Castanha-clara (clear, cashewlike)
Castanha-escura (dark, cashewlike)
Chocolate (chocolate brown)
Clarinha (very light)
Cobre (copper hued)
Cor-de-café (tint of coffee)
Cor-de-canela (tint of cinnamon)
Cor-de-cuia (tea colored)
Cor-firma ("no doubt about it")
Crioula (little servant or slave; African)
Enxofrada (pallid yellow; jaundiced)
Esbranquecimento (mostly white)
Fogoio (florid; flushed)
Galega (see agalegada above)
Galegada (see agalegada above)
Jambo (like a fruit the deep-red color of a blood orange)
Loira (blond hair and white skin)
Loira-clara (pale blond)
Malaia (from Malabar)
Marinheira (dark greyish)
Melada (honey colored)
Mestiça (mixture of white and Indian)
Miscigenação (mixed literally "miscegenation")
Morena-bem-chegada (very tan)
Morena-bronzeada (bronzed tan)
Morena-canelada (cinnamonlike brunette)
Morena-castanha (cashewlike tan)
Morena clara (light tan)
Morena-cor-de-canela (cinnamon-hued brunette)
Morena-jambo (dark red)
Morena-escura (dark tan)
Morena-fechada (very dark, almost mulatta)
Morenão (very dusky tan)
Morena-parda (brown-hued tan)
Morena-trigueira (wheat colored)
Mulatta (mixture of white and Negro)
Mulatinha (lighter-skinned white-Negro)
Negrota (Negro with a corpulent body)
Paraíba (like the color of marupa wood)
Parda (dark brown)
Parda-clara (lighter-skinned person of mixed race)
Polaca (Polish features; prostitute)
Pouco-clara (not very clear)
Pretinha (black of a lighter hue)
Puxa-para-branca (more like a white than a mulatta)
Quase-negra (almost Negro)
Regular (regular; nondescript)
Retinta ("layered" dark skin)
Rosada (high pink)
Rosa-queimada (burnished rose)
Ruiva (strawberry blond)
Russo (Russian; see also polaca)
Sapecada (burnished red)
Sarará (mulatta with reddish kinky hair, aquiline nose)
Saraúba (or saraiva: like a white meringue)
Trigueira (wheat colored)