Marcelo Neri discusses advances in Brazil 125 years after the abolition of slavery

17 May 2013

Slavery was abolished 125 years ago in Brazil, but only in the last ten years real advances against prejudice and discrimination have occurred. That is what Marcelo Neri, Professor at FGV?s Brazilian School of Economics and Finance in Rio de Janeiro, founder of FGV's Center for Social Policies (CPS), president of the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) and interim chief minister's of the Secretariat for Strategic Affairs (SAE) of the Presidency of the Republic, said in an exclusive interview with FGV News. Neri presented, on May 13, data on the socioeconomic mobility of blacks in Brazil at an event at Zumbi dos Palmares College, which celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery in the country. Studies published by SAE show that, by 2011, 51% of the Brazilian middle class was composed of blacks and mulattos - 20% more than in 2001. This is a very significant advance. Especially if we consider that 75% of the population who ascended to the New Middle Class is black, that is, 30 million people. This is equivalent to a little less than the entire black population of South Africa, he says. Pride The data shows that the participation of blacks in the Brazilian population in the period from 2000 to 2010 increased from 44.6% to 50.9%. According to Marcelo Neri, income effects are not the only ones that explain this phenomenon. Since the turn of the century, more people are declaring themselves as blacks. Especially those with a higher education level and younger generations, who attend schools and universities. It's what we call 'racial pride' effect. Neri also draws attention to the fact that programs such as Bolsa Família, for example, contain an implied affirmative action that encourages people to declare themselves black to receive the benefit. A less unequal picture According to the economist, studies show a reduction in inequality. To get an idea, precisely in the year called 'PIBinho', 2012, the per capita household income of black Brazilians increased 8.5%, against 5.1% of income for those who do not declare themselves black or mixed race, he says, adding that the process is continuous and also applies to such areas as entrepreneurship. The profit earned by black entrepreneurs is still lower than that of whites, but increased 10% between 2003 and 2013. Neri also called attention to the income increase of groups of workers such as subsistence entrepreneurs, maids, construction workers and manual labor farmers. Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery, but the real changes are happening. It is a picture still full of social scars, but is much better than it was ten years ago, he concludes.