Key Points:

  • Brazil and South Africa have usually been regarded as the two most unequal societies in the world.
  • In recent years, the level of inequality in Brazil is reported to have fallen. CDE asked professor Murray Leibbrandt and Dr Arden Finn of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at UCT to assess the extent to which the decline in Brazilian inequality was real or reflected changing recording or reporting practices.
  • Their conclusion – reported in inequality in south africa and Brazil: Can we trust the numbers? – which CDE is releasing today, is that the decline in inequality in Brazil appears to be real.
  • Much academic and policy-related research over the past decade has focused on one of two stylised facts: Brazilian inequality has decreased sharply over the last 10 years and South Africa’s level of inequality has remained stubbornly high.
  • Nieri (2010) concludes the Brazilian Gini coefficient fell from 0.604 in 1993 to 0.55 in 2008. Barros et al (2010) back this up by concluding that the Gini fell from 0.60 in 1995 to 0.552 in 2007. Both of these studies use household income per capita in their calculations.
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