Brazil: Racism still persists

Report on racism in Brazil.

Sources: O Estado de Sao Paulo; Abong.

In Brazil infant mortality rates are a very clear indicator of the inequity between different ethnic and racial population sectors. According to the 2009-2010 Annual Report on Racial Inequality in Brazil from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), infant mortality among whites is 37.3 per thousand live births but among people of African descent the figure is 62.3.

Inequity in the country is also reflected the homicide rate for victims between 15 and 25 years old: the rate among people of African descent is nearly twice that among whites.

This information is from a publication by the Laboratory for Economic, Historical and Social Analysis and Statistics on Race Relations of the UFRJ, coordinated by the economist Marcelo Paixão, who was also responsible for the research. This effort was supported by the Coordinadora Ecuménica de Servicios, the AVINA Foundation and Heifer International.

According to the report, nearly half the children of African descent aged 6 to 10 are behind in the education cycle, but among whites in this age bracket the rate is ten percentage points less at only 40.4 per cent.

The study shows different evolutions in different areas over the last 20 years. In the period 1988 to 2008, the mean number of years of schooling among children of African descent increased from 3.6 to 6.5, and in 2008 some 97.7 per cent of children in this group were in school. But on the other hand, the proportion of people of African descent who died as a result of pregnancy or in childbirth increased. According to Paixão, "This does not mean the whites live in a wonderland, but it does show that blacks and people of mixed race are worse off."

Until three years ago some 40.9% of women of African descent had never had a mammography but among whites the rate was only 22.9%. Also in 2008, some 18.1% of black and mixed race women had never had a Papanicolaou (cervical smear) test whereas only 13.2% of white women had never had one.

This report was presented at the end of July in the Northern city of Salvador, and then the UFRJ launched it in Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo for maximum diffusion.

Paixão explained that basically the report follows up economic, social and demographic indicators that show racial inequalities so as to contribute “to the formulation of public policies” in the country and to register progress or regression, so civil society organizations can use this data in their campaigns. The questions it analyses include the demographic evolution of the country’s population by race and colour, the mortality profiles of different groups, inequities in the material conditions of life and in access to education, to institutional power, to public policies and services, in legal frameworks and in the labour market.

The data are from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the Ministries of Health and of Education, the Single Health System, and other public and private institutions. Paixão commented, "This is an academic study but it is not just about data, it is about lives”.

For example, the setting up of the Single Health System in 1988 was of greater benefit to people of African descent (66.9% of whom received attention in this national network in 2008) than to whites (47.7%), but among the former some 27% have no health cover at all while only 14% of whites are without coverage.

The report consists of 292 pages and it has 83 charts, 90 tables and 13 maps. It can be consulted online at the laboratory’s web site (, and the model can also be used to make local studies in different States in Brazil.