Note from BW of Brazil: So what does today’s report really mean in plain English? It’s a topic that’s been discussed here since the debut of this blog back in 2011. Depending on how you look at it, Brazil could have as many 112.7 million black people, which would be 54.8% of the country’s total population of 205.5 million people. Or, looking at it from another perspective, the black population could be around 16.8 million people, which would represent about 8.2% of all Brazilians. Why such a huge discrepancy? Well, again, it depends on how you see it. To come to a figure of 112.7 million black people, one has to include the population of people who define themselves as “pardos”, loosely meaning ‘brown’ or ‘mixed’. At almost 96 million people, they make up about 46.7% of the Brazilian population. For decades, due to quality of life and socioeconomic statistics, black activists have defined the country’s população negra (black population) as the combination of self-declared pretos (blacks) and pardos. The question here would be, how many of those pardos have a phenotype that most would consider black? The world may never know.
Since 2012, the number of Brazilians defining themselves as strictly black has grown 15%.
The number of Brazilians who declare themselves pretos (blacks) has increased 14.9% to 16.825 million people between 2012 and 2016, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), which announced on Friday the “Características gerais dos moradores 2012-2016” (General characteristics of residents 2012 -2016), raised by the National Continuous Household Sample Survey (PNAD).
According to the survey, the number of Brazilians who declared themselves pardos (or were declared pardos by the resident interviewed) also grew between 2012 and 2016, by 6.6%, to 95.9 million people. This is the largest group, accounting for 46.7% of the population, a condition it assumed from 2015.
The number of Brazilians declaring themselves brancos (whites) in turn continued to shrink: they were 90.9 million in 2016, 1.8% less than in 2012. Of 46.6% of residents in the country in 2012, the declared white population accounted for 44.2% of the total in 2016. Those declared black were 8.2%.
According to Maria Lucia Vieira, research manager, the data indicate an increasing miscegenation in Brazil. There are basically three possible explanations, according to her: increased self-assertion of pretos e pardos (blacks and browns); marriage growth between races; higher fertility rate among pretos and pardos.
“The preto and pardo population is concentrated in regions where the yields are lower, such as the North and Northeast, where the population is younger, so this growth may also be related to the fecundity of this population,” said the manager.
Since 2007, Pnad studies have been showing that the sum of the population identified as black and brown has exceeded that which is considered white. The information about the color of the skin is chosen, in the list of options offered, by the interviewees themselves. They can freely inform the color of their skin and that of other people in the home.
Therefore, the increase in the number of pretos and pardos is not related to a possible higher fertility rate among these groups, clarifies Maria Lucia Vieira, manager of Pnad. “This greater number of declared blacks and browns stems from the natural miscegenation of the population and greater access to information, which leads people to identify with a color or race different from the one if which they identified themselves before,” says Maria Lucia.
For Ynaê Lopes dos Santos, a professor at the Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil da Fundação Getulio Vargas (Cpdoc/FGV or Center for Research and Documentation of Contemporary History of Brazil at the Getulio Vargas Foundation), blacks and browns have been more likely to assume themselves as such. The movement, since the last decade, would have been the result of affirmative policies, such as quotas at public universities, and of the impetus that black rights movements gained from social networks and the internet.
“It seems that this increase is part of an empowerment movement,” says Ynaê, author of a book on the history of African origins in Brazilian society. “This is very important in a society in which structural racism is very large,” adds Ynaê, who advocated state action to compensate for inequalities.
In addition to the greater miscegenation of the Brazilian population, the numbers reinforce the information that the country is getting older. The group of people aged 60 years and older accounted for 12.8% of the population in 2012. This percentage increased to 14.4% in 2016. At the same time, the proportion of children aged zero to nine years in the population shrank from 14.1% to 12.9%.
According to the survey, the country had 205.5 million people in 2016, growth of 3.4% compared to 2012. Most of the estimated population was concentrated in the Southeast region (42%). There was no change in the distribution of residents by regions between 2012 and 2016 in percentage terms. Of the total population in the country, 48.5% were men and 51.5% were women. This proportion also did not change during the period.