Brazil's Population Is Now Majority Minority

Preliminary results from 2010 census shows the mixed-race and black population has tipped the scale at the same time the country's cities saw remarkably high growth rates

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Reuters

Preliminary numbers from the 2010 Brazilian census show that the country’s minorities, namely its mixed race and black population, has become the majority. An estimated 50.7 percent of Brazilians now identify as either mixed race or black, amounting to about 97 million of the nation’s 190 million people.

The tipped scale is being largely attributed to more African-Brazilians feeling more comfortable self-identifying as black or mixed race. The country’s long history of racism and slavery remains a dividing line in Brazilian culture, but these new figures suggest at least a slight shift, as the Guardian notes:

Race campaigners welcomed the growing number of self-declared African-Brazilians, but the census also underlined how the vast social divide between Brazil's white and non-white populations persists.

The 2010 census – a massive operation which involved about 190,000 census takers visiting 58m homes – found that in major cities white inhabitants were earning about 2.4 times more than their black counterparts.

Meanwhile, in Brazil’s slums, mixed race and black populations have always been the majority. And while favela populations are trickier to measure, those numbers are likely growing. UN Habitat estimated that the 2001 slum population in Brazil was 52 million, up 2 million from 1990. Another UN report cites a reduction in the overall percentage of Brazilians living in slums, but pegs the total number at more like 54 million. 

Brazil's cities are also growing. More than 23 million people joined the country's urban population between 2000 and 2010, bringing the total to an estimated 161 million. There are now 15 cities with populations above 1 million, two more than in 2000. Of those, Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon, grew the most.

Of the 27 major cities in Brazil, only 7 saw growth rates below 10 percent over the last decade. Six of the 27 had growth rates above 25 percent. The northern cities of Boa Vista and Macapá saw the highest growth, at 41.8 percent and 40.8 percent, respectively. The continuing growth of these cities and their non-white populations can be expected to be a defining trend in the future of Brazil.

Photo credit: Ricardo Moraes / Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.