In Brazil, better lives


Brazil has experienced a considerable shift over the last decade as a result of its economic growth. Social inequality has decreased and income distribution has become more evenly distributed. These tangible changes are reflected in the increased confidence of the Brazilian population. Demand is higher and priorities have changed, leading to a change in both the government and the private sector as well. 

Having overcome great adversity, Brazil is now seen as an example for other nations. In less than a decade, the country has moved from such setbacks as a military coup and an impeached President to hosting several of the world’s most prominent international events. Efficient public policies have been key to the country’s newfound economic stability and allowed the Brazilian population to drive these improvements.

Contributing to Brazil’s socioeconomic growth is part of the mission of the FGV Foundation. To accomplish this, the foundation collects and analyses data used in the development of effective government policies. For example, one study “Back to the Country of the Future: Forecasts, European Crisis and the Brazilian New Middle Class”, shows how a strong economy helped some 30 million Brazilians join the middle class over the past decade as national GDP grew continuously, despite the international crisis.

In this study the director of the Social Policies Center of FGV Foundation, Marcelo Neri, and his team projected Brazil’s economic growth and reduction of inequality from the 2003-2009 period until 2014. The projections show sharp improvements, with some 67.8 million Brazilians, a population greater than that of the UK, ascending out of poverty to higher income groups.

The authors point out that “if we continue the trend of upward mean growth and downward inequality observed in every Brazilian state since 2003, we will have around 118 million people in class C by 2014 and 29.1 million in classes AB, compared to 65.8 million and 13.3 million, respectively, in 2003.” The authors note that this fact is “especially remarkable” when the shrinking of consumer markets in developed countries due to the international crisis is taken into account.

This improvement is a result of financial regulations which were crucial in containing the effects of the global economic crisis of 2008 on the Brazilian economy. Such measures have played an essential role in improving the quality of life for the people of Brazil. Yet social inequality remains a major concern, linked to infrastructure issues. These are now being dealt with by the government. Many may argue about the “immediatist” nature of the State, but with solid governance such as we have seen in Rio de Janeiro’s breakthrough security strategies, it is possible to foresee long-term development as a legacy of public and private collaboration.

The study also shows that each individual Brazilian life is considered better than that of the Brazilian collective. It points to Gallup World Poll data based on subjective questions about the respondent´s expectation of life satisfaction five years ahead, where it calls Brazil “four times world champions”. On the other hand, in the question on the country’s ranking for the same period and same scale, the rating drops two points. Brazil ranks ninth in the world, with the largest difference between individual and collective ratings. The nation’s general happiness is expected to be less than the sum of each person’s happiness.

How can each Brazilian give such a high rating for their own particular lives while giving such a low rating for the lives of the population as a whole? The authors believe that the optimism and the difficulty of living in a group make Brazilians, as La Fontaine’s fable might have put it, more grasshopper than ant. The good news is that as the country works on its collective problems, Brazilian society will be able to leap ahead. By collective problems, the authors refer to the lack of democracy, inflation, inequality, informality, lack of basic sanitation, and violence. As long as Brazil addresses these legacies, the country will no longer be the country of the past that considers itself the country of the future, and it will be able to become the country of the present.

Brazil has reached a critical “make or break” point in its history and such data are essential to help establish strategies that will guarantee sustainable economic growth. Regardless of individual pessimism, collective happiness is a first step in maintaining newly acquired standards and pushing for future improvements.


Neri, Marcelo (2012), “Back to the Country of the Future: Forecasts, European Crisis and the Brazilian New Middle Class” FGV Foundation, Brazil.

See also: 

OECD Observer (2011), "Special Focus: Brazil", Q4 2011. 

Create Your Better Life Index 

©OECD Observer No 290-291, Q1-Q2 2012

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