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são paulo - a tale of two cities

discussed below in relation to recent statistics on key living conditions in São Paulo. Using the HDI to look more closely at São Paulo, in 2007 the city government conducted a quality of life survey of its inhabitants to assist social policy strategies within the city. Unsurprisingly, and consistent with patterns of spatial inequality, the result showed that the neighbourhoods in the centre of the city tend to be more developed than the neighbourhoods located around the border areas of the city. But it also revealed that most HDI levels were positive. Most of the districts have levels of human development above 0.80 and none of them score below 0.50. In 2007, the top five wealthy districts — Moema, Pinheros, Jardim Paulista, Perdizes and Itaim Bibi — all had HDI levels above 0.95, equal to or greater than levels found in Canada and Sweden, for example, and therefore effectively equal to the highest living standards in the world. By contrast, the bottom five districts in the study — Marsilac, Parelheiros, Lajeado, Jadim Angela and Iguatemi — all scored between 0.7 and 0.75 on the HDI, which is comparable to the scores of Azerbaijan and Guyana, for example. Just five years earlier, in 2002, city authorities found that Marsilac had a HDI score lower than that of Sierra Leone, the world’s poorest country.23 Of course, within metropolitan districts in São Paulo, there is a high degree of heterogeneity and these statistics by no means mean that all people within districts experience the same levels of development or welfare. The Brazilian Census of 2010 will offer new data about the closing, or widening, of the urban divide, as measured by district-level inequality.

A progressive drop in the Gini coefficient The Gini coefficient is an imperfect but useful tool that offers a good indication of how wealth in terms of income (or consumption, depending on the analysis), is distributed across a given society. It reveals a limited amount of information about levels of wealth and prosperity, and about human development per se, but it offers important insights concerning income inequity and distributive justice.

When looking at the share of aggregate household income, or in simple terms what is known as the ‘income gap’, it is possible to notice that the differences between the very rich and the very poor in Brazil are extreme: the richest 20 per cent of the population claims 61 per cent of the nation’s wealth, while the poorest 20 per cent receives only 2.8 per cent. Nevertheless, even as the number of millionaires in Brazil increased by 19 per cent to 143,000 individuals between 1990 and 2005.24 Extreme poverty rates decreased, with more than 4.7 million Brazilians leaving extreme poverty over the same time period. According to government figures, while the income of the poorest 10 per cent of the population grew at an annual rate of 9.2 per cent between 2001 and 2005, the income of the richest 10 per cent fell at an annual rate of 0.4 per cent.25 Brazil is widely known to have one of the highest (most unequal) Gini ratings in the world, indicative of the rampant inequality throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Brazil is widely known to have one of the highest (most unequal) Gini ratings in the world... In recent years, Brazil has fallen from the top of the list of the world’s most unequal societies to the tenth most unequal. Bolivia and Colombia have slightly higher Gini coefficients, and many other Latin American countries are close behind Brazil. The world’s six most unequal countries, according to their Gini rankings, are in Africa. South Africa tops the list with a staggering national urban Gini of 0.76, followed by Namibia, with a national income Gini of 0.71, and Botswana, with a Gini score of 0.63, while Denmark and Sweden enjoy the lowest levels of income inequality, with Gini levels of just 0.25. The international alert line, signalling extreme inequality, suggested by UN-HABITAT and partners is 0.40. According to the United States Census Bureau statistics, if present trends continue, the Gini for Brazil and the United States will achieve parity in approximately 10 or 15 years time, as the Gini in the United States is on an upward trend

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Profile for UN-Habitat

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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