Posted on December 26, 2023

Mixed-Race People Become Brazil’s Biggest Population Group

Constance Malleret, The Guardian, December 22, 2023

Mixed-race Brazilians are now the largest population group in the South American country, the latest census has revealed, as the number of people identifying as African-descended in Brazil continues to grow.

New data from the 2022 census released on Friday shows that 92.1 million Brazilians identify as mixed-race, equivalent to 45.3% of the population. This is up from 43.1% in 2010, when the last census was carried out.

The proportion of self-declared white Brazilians has fallen from 47.7% to 43.5%, or 88.2 million, while those labelling themselves as Black jumped to 10.2% of the population (20.6 million), from 7.6% 12 years earlier.

The 2010 census had already confirmed that Brazil was no longer a majority-white country, but this is the first time since records began that mixed-race Brazilians – a broad grouping that includes descendants of Indigenous Brazilians as well as of Africans – outnumber the white population in official data.

Together, Black and mixed-race people now represent 55.5% of the 203 million Brazilians living in the country.

The numbers, collected by the national statistics institute (IBGE), also show a significant increase in the Indigenous population, to 1.7 million, and a drop in people identifying as being of Asian descent, to just 0.4% of the population.

This 2022 census has been hailed for giving a more accurate depiction of Brazil’s diverse population and reflecting the results of years of consciousness raising around the country’s African roots.

“The census is increasingly seen as progress for Brazil’s non-white population. This is the expression of a process of growing awareness under way in the country,” IBGE’s president, Marcio Pochmann, said on Friday, noting the census had previously “passed on the idea that the white population is predominant”.

Activists from Brazil’s Black movement attribute the racial shift in the population to a growing sense of pride among African-descended Brazilians in recognising and celebrating their ancestry.

“In recent years, the Black identity has become an identity that is increasingly respected, and valued, by our own communities,” said Ingrid Farias of the Coalizão Negra por Direitos civil rights organisation.

João Jorge, the president of the Fundação Palmares, a government institute for Afro-Brazilian culture, said the new data will help authorities design more racially inclusive public policies in the deeply unequal country.

Black and mixed-race Brazilians are about two times more likely to live in poverty than white citizens.

“These numbers will help to show that poverty has a colour, unemployment has a colour. It’s 2023 and Brazil cannot continue being the country of economic apartheid, social apartheid,” Jorge said during the census ceremony, which was held in Salvador, a former slave port where more than 83% of the population is Black or mixed-race.