Participe do nosso grupo no Whatsapp Participe do nosso grupo no Telegram
Ainda não é assinante
Cenarium? Assine já!

Marcela Leiros – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – Maranhão, which is partially part of the Brazilian Amazon, and Amazonas are the States in the region with the highest proportion of population in extreme poverty in the country. The Federative Units have 14.4% and 12.5%, respectively, of the population living with less than US$ 1.90 per day, or R$ 10.73 in current values. The data were released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) on Friday, March 3.

The World Bank defines US$ 1.90 per day as the extreme poverty line, US$ 3.20 as the poverty line in lower-middle income countries, and US$ 5.50 as the standard line for upper-middle income countries. Alagoas and Pernambuco, in the Northeast, share 3rd place on the list, with 11.8%. (See the graph below)

Proportion of people, by selected per capita household income classes, in the Amazon (2020) Source: IBGE. (Art: Catarine Hak)

Also according to IBGE, there was a sharp drop in extreme poverty in these states compared to 2019, when the percentages of the population below this line were: Maranhão (21.3%), Amazonas (15.0%), Pernambuco (13.6%) and Alagoas (15.7%).

Read also: In Bolsonaro Government, Amazonians eat chicken feet and cook with firewood

In Manaus, capital of Amazonas state, Francisca das Dores, 59, shows the empty refrigerator next to her granddaughters (Ricardo Oliveira/ CENARIUM – 28.09.21)

Poverty in the Amazon

These Amazonian States have a tradition of leading poverty rates in the region. In April, CENARIUM’s Special “Hunger Pandemic” showed that Maranhão, Amazonas and Pará, in that order, were the Amazon States with the highest number of people with per capita household income below the poverty line.

An IBGE survey collected in 2019, and released in late 2020, showed that 11.8 million people lived below the poverty line in the region and 3.6 million people lived in extreme poverty. In Maranhão, 52% of the population was in this condition. In Amazonas it was 47%, and in Pará, 44%. Together, the states were home to 9.4 million people living in poverty.

In the outskirts of Manaus and living on only R$190 per month from Bolsa Família, Maria das Graças shows the charcoal she uses for cooking (Ricardo Oliveira/CENARIUM)

At the time, the economist Orígenes Martins Júnior pointed out that the size of the states already put them in the first big economic problem of the region: the area and diversity. “By concentrating in the Western Amazon, poverty starts to be a problem because of the concentration of production in the capital cities. The distances and difficulty of access to most of the municipalities contributed to this reality and the lack of an economic policy to stimulate the generation of wealth from the characteristics of each region further aggravated this situation”, he highlighted.


According to the IBGE, the population of Maranhão this year reached 7.1 million. In September, the Institute indicated that the state had a record unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2021. The number of unemployed people reached 17.2% of the working-age population. In absolute numbers, there were 457,000 unemployed people in the whole state, which corresponded to an increase of 20.4% in relation to the same period last year. The numbers indicate great inequality.

“Maranhão, as well as Amazonas, is still a stronghold of an oligarchic process, that is, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. This generates a perverse inequality, which is a characteristic of the capitalist system. And how is the distribution done: through paid work, private investments or public policies (health, education, quality housing)”, highlights the anthropologist and coordinator of the Center for Political Culture-Social Sciences at the Federal University of Amazonas (Ufam), Ademir Ramos.

National scenario

Also according to the IBGE, Brazil has no official poverty line. The Institute’s Synthesis of Social Indicators analyzes the living conditions of the Brazilian population considering the lines suggested by the World Bank and the criteria adopted in the federal government’s social programs.

In 2020, the country had 7.3 million people (3.5% of the population) with a monthly per capita income of up to R$89, below the Bolsa Família extreme poverty line. Considering the World Bank’s extreme poverty line (income of US$1.90/day, or R$155 per capita per month), there are 12 million people (5.7% of the population).