The distribution of the Brazilian population by color or race presented a slight alteration between 1993 and 2003, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics’ ( IBGE) Synthesis of Social Indicators, 2004.
Over the period the number of people who declared themselves as white decreased from 54.3% to 52.1%, the number of those who identified themselves as black increased from 5.1% to 5.9%, and the number who considered themselves mulatto rose from 40% to 41.4%.
The change occurred in various regions of the country. In the Northeast, the proportion of blacks rose from 5.2% to 6.4%; in the South, from 3% to 3.7%; and in the Center-West, from 2.8% to 4.5%.
In the case of mulattoes, the proportion increased from 27.7% in 1993 to 30.3% in 2003; in the South, from 12.1% to 13.4%; and in the Center-West, from 48.9% to 51.8%.
Blacks and mulattoes did better than whites in terms of lowering their illiteracy rates, even though their rates continue to be higher. Between 1993 and 2003, these rates declined to a slightly greater degree among blacks and mulattoes (around 32%) than among whites (29%).
This phenomenon, however, was insufficient to reduce the difference that exists among the three groups in levels of illiteracy.
According to the study, illiteracy levels among blacks (16.9%) and mulattoes (16.8%) are still double that of whites (7.1%).
Levels of functional illiteracy – people whose ability to read and write is minimal – follow the same tendency, with a decrease of over 10% among the population as a whole between 1993 and 2003.
The biggest decrease occurred among blacks in the Northeast (around 35%), while for mulattoes and whites it was 26%. The study also points out that there is still a substantial difference in levels of functional illiteracy between whites (18.4%), blacks (32.1%), and mulattoes (32.5%).
With respect to formal education, even though blacks and mulattoes have advanced more in terms of years of schooling than whites (1.9 and 1.6 years, respectively, versus 1.4), the differences among racial groups continue to be significant: 2 more years of schooling when whites are compared with blacks; 1.7 more years, when they are compared with mulattoes.
According to the study, salaries also vary in accordance with workers’ skin color. Whereas the average wage of white workers with formal jobs (signed working papers) was R$ 890.00 in 2003, and white workers with informal jobs received an average of R$ 520.90, the corresponding figures for black and mulatto workers were R$ 536.60 and R$ 297.60.
The study also underlines the fact that, although the black and mulatto population in 2003 had attained practically the same level of schooling as whites in 1993, their average earnings amounted to 50-60% of what whites earned, on the average, ten years before.
The indicators also found, among the white population, a small increase between 1993 and 2003 in the percentage of employees (from 47.6% to 49.5%) and employers (from 4.8% to 5.8%).
Blacks and mulattoes occupied job market positions as employees in a proportion (45.8%) similar to that of whites, but they were at a disadvantage when it came to positions as employers.
In 2003 only 2.2% of the blacks and mulattoes managed to achieve this status.
The IBGE study also identified a significant disparity between the percentage of domestic workers among whites (6.1%) and among blacks and mulattoes (9.6%).
Translation: David Silberstein
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