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Overview of Trends of Economic Inequality in Brazil


Has the dispersion of earnings been increasing in recent decades?No, earnings dispersion (Gini coefficient) has fallen in recent decade.
Has overall inequality increased in recent years?No, the Gini coefficient has fallen by 5 percentage points between 2001 and 2009.
Have there been periods when overall inequality fell for a sustained period?Yes, the recent decade.
Has poverty been falling or rising in recent decades?Falling over past twenty years.
Has there been a U-pattern for top income shares over time?Incomplete evidence.
Has the distribution of wealth followed the same pattern as income?No evidence.
Additional noteworthy featuresHigh level of overall income inequality.

Sources and References

Sources for the historical data series:

Overall inequality: Gini coefficient for household per capita income from SEDLAC (Socio-Economic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean), a joint CEDLAS and World Bank project – see Gasparini, Cruces and Tornarolli; Gini coefficient for household income for 1960 and 1970 from Langoni (1973a, Table 2; see also 1978), see also Fishlow (1972, Tables 1 and 5).

Top income shares: Share of top 1 per cent in total household income for 1960 and 1970 from Langoni (1978, Tabela 1.1 and 3.3).

Poverty: Percentage below of individuals below national poverty line, from SEDLAC (CEDLAS and the World Bank).

Individual earnings: Gini coefficient for labour earnings in six main metropolitan regions, persons aged 15-60, from Neri (2010, Table 2.3, June figures).

Wealth: no suitable data were found.


  • Fishlow, A, 1972, “Brazilian size distribution of income”, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, vol 62: 391-402.
  • Gasparini, L, Cruces, G and Tornarolli, R, 2011, “Recent trends in income inequality in Latin America”, Economia, vol 11: 147-190.
  • Langoni, C G, 1978 (first edition 1973), Distribuição de Renda e Desenvolvimento Econômico do Brasil?, Expressão e Cultura, Rio de Janeiro.
  • Langoni, C G, 1973a, “Income distribution and economic development: The Brazilian case”, working paper.
  • Langoni, C G, 1975, “Review of income data: Brazil”, Research Program in Economic Development Discussion Paper 60.
  • Neri, M C, 2010, “The decade of falling income inequality and formal employment generation in Brazil” in Tackling inequalities in Brazil, China, India and South Africa, OECD, Paris.