According to the most recent Population Census, published by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in 2000, women formed a slight majority of Brazil’s population of 169.8 million (50.79%, versus 49.21% for men).
When place of residence is analyzed, these percentages change considerably, especially when it comes to the distribution of men and women in rural and urban areas.
While females represent 51.5% of the urban population, the opposite situation prevails in the countryside, where they constitute only 47.6%.
This fact is explained by the migratory flows analyzed by specialists from the Applied Economic Research Institute (Ipea) in a 1999 study of rural exodus (the movement of peoples from rural areas to urban areas).
One of their findings is that differential migration according to sex has led to an increased concentration of males in the Brazilian countryside.
The study suggests three possible causes for the phenomenon. The first is that young women have an easier time finding employment in both firms and residences in the cities.
The second reason is that rural labor is generally tougher, demanding more physical effort, without any offsetting rewards in terms of future prospects. Abandoning the paternal homestead is the shortest route to economic independence.
The family itself encourages this migration, since the chances for young women to establish themselves as farmers or farmers’ wives are very limited.
The third and final explanation presented by the Ipea specialists has to do with educational and professional training. ECLA (Economic Commission for Latin America) data for 1996 show that 55% of young men have fewer than four years of schooling, whereas only 42% of young women discontinue their studies at this level.
This indicates that rural families prefer to invest in the education of daughters, in the hope they will find better jobs in the cities, when the time comes to migrate.
Information provided by the Radiobrás Research Nucleus
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