Demography of Race in Brazil

  • Edward TellesEmail author
Part of the International Handbooks of Population book series (IHOP, volume 4)


Slavery, based on African labor, has been the primary economic system for most of Brazilian history and throughout its national territory. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, 4.9 million enslaved Africans disembarked in Brazil, fully 12 times as many as in the United States and just over half of all those arriving in the Western Hemisphere. A high sex ratio (predominance of males) among the Portuguese settlers in Brazil during the colonial/slave period resulted in extensive miscegenation in which these white males sought out black, indigenous and mulatto females, whether through violence or consensus. Since Independence in the nineteenth century, Brazil’s racial ideology has evolved from an elite obsession with whitening, which was related to modernity, to considering itself a racial democracy in the mid and late twentieth century where race mixture was valued as the essence of Brazilianness and racism considered un-Brazilian to the twenty-first Century, marked by widespread affirmative action and consciousness of race and racism. From the late nineteenth century to the 1940s, Brazil’s racial composition has become whiter as a result of mass European immigration encouraged by whitening policies. Then it became browner probably because of miscegenation, the end of European immigration and higher nonwhite fertility rates. Since the 1990s, the black and brown population has grown while the white population diminished as a result of reclassification when race consciousness has grown and nonwhite categories have become less stigmatized. Despite these changes, racial inequality, marked by the absence of nonwhites in the middle and upper classes, has persisted throughout Brazilian history.


Affirmative Action Racial Discrimination Black Population White Population Brazilian Population 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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