How are inequality and poverty best addressed? Successive governments have focused on conditional cash transfers, such as Bolsa Escola and Bolsa Familia, in which money goes to parents in return for keeping their children at school, among other conditions. These programs have diminished absolute poverty and helped ensure that future generation will gain the basic skills they need to move themselves out of marginalization.
Yesterday, the Jornal Globo reported that Brazil has 16.2 million people–almost 10 percent of the population–living in extreme poverty, which in Brazil is benchmarked at incomes under R$70 a month, or about $45 US.
Poverty is one issue, inequality another. Inequality ultimately speaks volumes about opportunity, and opportunity is most dependent on access to quality education. After addressing misery, education should be priority one, two, and ten.
The Folha de São Paulo reports that inequality has dropped in Brazil; it now sits at 0,5304 on the Gini Index (from zero to one). The Gini Index is the most common measure of inequality. Brazil’s worst moment for inequality was in 1990, when the rate was 0.6091. Today’s rate, oddly enough, is about the same as it was in 1960, when the Gini coefficient came in at 0.5367. Brazil still remains among the most unequal societies in the world, however, even in the context of 2009 benchmarks, as depicted by this map.
These are sobering numbers. In spite of the progress Brazil has made over the last decade or so, many social challenges lay ahead.