Brazil currently has 12 million people living in favelas. They are responsible for generating R$38.6 billion per year in commercial activity, which is equivalent, for example, to the GDP of Bolivia. If they were a state, they would form the fifth most populous Brazilian state; Rio de Janeiro’s favelas alone would comprise, together, the ninth largest city in the country.
Other data from the report is equally fascinating, including the fact that, although favelas are most commonly associated with Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the highest percentage of the population in favelas is actually in the Northeast, where 10% of the region’s total population lives in favelas. The report also points to the cultural vitality of favelas, with literacy rates on the rise and with an overwhelming majority (80%) “proud” of where they live, with 70% saying they would continue to live in favelas even if their incomes rose. Collectively, the data provide a powerful reminder that, while politicians, the middle-class, and the formal economy have historically marginalized the favelas, they remain important and powerful parts of Brazil’s society, economy, and culture in many ways.