Brazil Table of Contents

At the turn of the century, Brazil's population was 17,438,434. By 1950 it had grown to 51,944,397, and in 1970 it reached 93,139,037. By 1991 Brazil was the world's sixth most populous country, with about 2.7 percent of the world's 5.3 billion people or 147,053,940 inhabitants. In July 1996, the population was counted as being 157,079,573, but estimated in 1997 to be nearly 160 million. Projections indicate a total population of 169 million in 2000 and 211 million in 2020, and population stability at about 250 million in 2050. The population growth rate for the 1992 to 2000 period is estimated at 1.5 percent per year. As a result of the decline in mortality and continued high fertility during the 1950s and 1960s, the average growth rate was nearly 3 percent per year. Subsequent to a decrease in total fertility, the growth rate dropped to 2.5 percent in the 1970s and 1.9 percent in the 1980s.

Average population density in Brazil in 1994 was 18.5 inhabitants per square kilometer. There was a wide variation between the densely populated Southeast and South, on the one hand, and the sparse North and Center-West, on the other, with the Northeast at intermediate levels. In comparison, in 1991 the United States (including Alaska) had an average of twenty-five inhabitants per square kilometer; France, 100; the United Kingdom, 100; China, 110; and Canada, three.

According to the 1996 count, the most populous region in the country is still the Southeast (63 million inhabitants), followed by the Northeast (45 million), the South (23.1 million), the North (11.1 million), and the Center-West (10.2 million). The most inhabited states are São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Rio Grande do Sul, and Paraná. These states all lie along the Atlantic coast.

In some rural areas and many cities, particularly in major metropolitan areas, females outnumber males. The historical predominance of women over men in the Brazilian population has persisted. The 1996 count showed that there were ninety-seven men for every 100 women and that the total number of women exceeded the number of men by 5 million.

The average age of the Brazilian population has increased as a result of a continued decrease in mortality and fertility. Between 1980 and 1990, the proportional share of children from birth to age fourteen decreased from 38.2 to 34.7 percent, while the share for those of age fifteen to sixty-four increased from 57.8 to 61.1 percent. The proportion of elderly (age sixty-five or greater) increased from 4.0 to 4.2 percent and is projected to reach 9.0 percent by the year 2020. In all regions of the country, the count registered an increased number of people of ages fifteen to sixty-four and of older people over sixty-four years old. In the Southeast, for example, the proportion of people in the former age bracket increased from the 61.7 percent registered in 1980 to 63.6 percent in 1991, while the number of older people increased from 4.2 percent to 5.1 percent.

The demographic transition in Brazil becomes apparent as the bottom of the very wide-based pyramid, typical of developing countries with high birthrates, begins to narrow (see fig. 6). Further declines in the fertility rate, estimated at 2.44 children born per woman in 1994, eventually will lead to a pyramid that is shaped more like a bullet, with cohorts under age sixty of roughly equal size. Senior citizens will live longer, and the proportion of young people will decline. In the year 2000, young people will account for 28.3 percent of the population and senior citizens, 8 percent. Couples will have fewer children, and the fertility rate may be less than 2.2 children per woman, the replacement level.

Migration and Urbanization
Social Classes
The Elderly
Race and Ethnicity
Rural Groups
Cultural Unity and Diversity

For more recent population estimates, see Facts about Brazil.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress