New online platform maps Brazil’s improved human development trends in over 5,500 municipalities

Apr 7, 2014

A young Brazilian woman takes a boat to go to to school in Abaetetuba, a municipality with over 70 islands in northern Brazil. Photo Kenia Ribeiro/CNM-UNDP

Brazilians are living longer, studying and earning more according UNDP’s Atlas Brazil 2013

Brasilia  – Human development in Brazil has improved drastically in the past two decades with historic disparities narrowing between northern and southern municipalities, according to the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Atlas for Brazil, an online platform which, as of today, is also available in English and Spanish.

Using UNDP’s Human Development Index—a composite measure of life expectancy, education and income—the newly revamped online platform Atlas Brazil 2013 shows that over two-thirds of Brazilian cities’ Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI) are above the 1991 national average – and less than one percent still linger below last decade’s national average.

“Assessing Brazil’s progress through this municipal-level human development index is like using a magnifying glass which confirms the importance of engagement at local level in improving people’s lives,” said UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Brazil Jorge Chediek.

Atlas Brazil 2013 shows that national MHDI in Brazil jumped from 0.493 (Very Low Human Development) to 0.727 (High Human Development) in these two decades. Progress was mainly driven by the health component of the index (MHDI-Longevity of 0.816), reflecting an increase of 9.2 years (14.2 per cent) in life expectancy at birth, from 1991.

The country also experienced a great boost in income and education levels. Brazil’s MHDI-Education registered the largest absolute growth (0.358) and also the highest increase in relative terms (129  percent) when compared to the other two dimensions. More than 150 percent of young Brazilians are in schools, compared to 20 years ago. Schooling among the adult population, another sub-index of this dimension, rose over 82 percent when compared to 1991 levels.

Brazilians monthly per capita income grew 14.2 per cent in the past two decades, according to August 2010 inflation-adjusted figures. However, UNDP’s online platform shows income inequality is still among the nation’s major challenges.

Despite solid progress over the past two decades, slightly over 11 percent of Brazilian cities registered MHDI-Income above the national average, with citizens from the lowest-ranked city in this dimension (such as Marajá do Sena, in the northern state of Maranhão) earning 20 times less than those from the highest-ranked municipality (São Caetano do Sul, in the south-eastern state of São Paulo), according the Atlas Brasil 2013.

Inspired by UNDP’s global Human Development Index - published annually by UNDP headquarters in New York for over 150 countries - the Brazilian MHDI is calculated under a methodological adaptation for Brazil’s municipal levels, using data from national demographic censuses of 1991, 2000 and 2010, calculated by the Brazilian Institute of Statistics (IBGE, in the Portuguese acronym).

Post-democracy Human Development gains– Assessing the human development boost that took place in Brazil over the past two decades also reflects the country’s post military regime path, since the adoption of its democratic constitution in 1988.

“This is also a democratic tool because we are already seeing evidence that policy makers and citizens are using the platform to discuss local development priorities and other policy making," Jorge Chedik added.

Besides the extensive media coverage, the Portuguese version of the Atlas platform has registered over 5 million accesses in the last five months.

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