Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2009
Brazil was a very sparsely occupied country in 1930: with a population under thirty-five million, there were only slightly more than four inhabitants per square kilometre. Population was unevenly distributed with a heavy concentration on the coast and in the Southeast and Northeast. Population increased 2.8 percent per annum in the half-century to 1980: at increasingly higher annual rates until the 1960s, then at decreasing rates afterwards. In 1980 the population was 119 million, almost fourteen inhabitants per square kilometre. But population density still varied considerably: in the North it was only one inhabitant per square kilometre while in the Southeast it was around forty. The Southeast’s share of the population was 44.6 percent in 1920 and was still 43.5 percent in 1980. The Northeast’s share of the total population fell in same period from 36.7 percent to 29.3 percent. Data that are not strictly comparable indicate that the share of the population in cities with populations of 20,000 and more increased slowly in the two decades after 1920 to reach 16 percent in 1940 and then very rapidly in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to reach 51.5 percent in 1980.