This essay compares statistical indicators of black/white racial inequality in Brazil and the United States from 1990 to 2010. Those indicators include racial differences in fertility, life expectancy, infant mortality, regional distribution, educational enrollment and achievement, labor force distribution, income and earnings, and poverty. From 1994 to 2010, Brazilians elected a series of presidential administrations committed to reducing the country’s very high levels of class and regional inequality. The programs enacted by those governments did reduce poverty and inequality and enabled some 30 million Brazilians to move from the poor and working class into a greatly expanded middle class. The article finds that policies intended to combat class inequality worked to reduce racial inequality as well. On most indicators, Brazil made greater progress in lowering racial disparities during those twenty years than did the United States. By 2010 the United States was still the more racially egalitarian country, in statistical terms; but Brazil’s experiments in social democracy and in class- and race-based affirmative action are producing outcomes that merit close attention from citizens and policymakers interested in reducing class and racial inequality in the United States.


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pp. 829-854
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