Brazil has the world’s fifth largest population, but in terms of population density, the country ranks behind 152 others where the average square kilometer is more crowded.
According to the 2000 Brazilian Population Census, published by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), there were, at that time, 169.8 million Brazilians occupying 8.5 million square kilometers, for an average population density of 19.9 inhabitants per square kilometer, which is low by international standards.
In 1999, specialists from the Applied Economic Research Institute (Ipea) did a study of migration flows of people who left the countryside for the cities.
The study covered the period 1950-1995. In 1950 Brazil had only 52 million inhabitants, 18 million of whom lived in cities (36%), and 34 million, in rural areas (64%).
Over the past 50 years this distribution inverted itself rapidly. In 2000, only 18.7% of the population remained in the countryside, as against the 81.3% that lived in urban areas.
In São Paulo, for example, the population density attained the mark of 7,010 people per square kilometer in 2000.
The Southeast and South were the regions that supplied cities with the largest number of immigrants between 1950 and 1980, whereas in the last two decades the Northeast has been the source of the great contingent of people who have left the land.
The specialists also discovered that, during the latter period, areas in which the agricultural frontier advanced, such as the Center-West and the North, were also responsible for expelling part of the rural population.
The study also presents a set of estimates for flows and net rates of rural-urban migration by sex and age cohorts for Brazil as a whole and the country’s five major regions during the decades of the ’50’s, ’60’s, ’70’s, and ’80’s, and the first half of the ’90’s.
These estimates served as a basis for analyzing the role of each region in the Brazilian population’s rural exodus process, decade by decade.
The largest contingent of rural migrants were women. One of the consequences of this phenomen is the growing concentration of males in the Brazilian countryside, the Ipea study concludes.