Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 September 2019
Brazil experienced significant social, political, and economic transformations during the second half of the twentieth century. The country weathered multiple political regimes, with democratic periods (1946–1964, 1985–present) interrupted by a military dictatorship (1964–1985). Rapid industrialization generated jobs, wealth, and a new national capital (Brasília), and led to massive urbanization as rural residents streamed into cities seeking employment and a better quality of life. Tens of millions of Brazilian citizens gained access to formal employment during this era, which provided the necessary public and private wealth to expand access to health care, education, and basic infrastructure. But Brazil also remained a highly unequal country throughout its impressive economic expansion. The majority of the population lacked access to essential services and resources, including decent housing, clean water, sewage, and a basic income. In this chapter, we explore how Brazil built the foundations for the democratic pathways that would prove fundamental for improving well-being in the twenty-first century.