Up through the 1990s, Brazil was the country with the worst income inequality in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most unequal countries in the world. Although poverty and inequality continue to be a problem, tremendous progress has been in recent years.
Brazil has experienced an economic boom in the past decade that has been driven mostly by exports of natural resources. As a result of this growth, millions in the country have escaped poverty. However, this boom will not last forever, and the real lessons for the US lie in how Brazil has used its profits to reduce inequality and set the foundation for a strong future.
For example, Brazil has more than doubled its spending on education, leading to improvements in indicators of quality such as test scores and college graduation rates. In addition, greater investments in health care have led to improved outcomes and a healthier population. The combination of the growing economy with these investments means that inequality has been steadily decreasing over the past decade.
In contrast, poverty has been surging in the United States and the quality of the country’s educational and healthcare systems is widely debated. Furthermore, inequality has been increasing for the past two decades, long before the onset of the Great Recession. As the US remains internally divided on how to improve the situation, Brazil offers some clear lessons: by investing in the health and education of their work forces, countries can create diversified economies and strong internal markets that not only reduce inequality and poverty but also support future economic growth.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez