SLIDESHOW: On The Road - Rio Ready? Brazil's Inequality Ahead Of World Cup, Olympics

Feb 28, 2014

Rio de Janeiro is known throughout the world for its Carnival celebration and an incredibly diverse and lively culture, but this vibrant image contrasts with striking examples of inequality.

University of Oklahoma anthropologist and International Studies professor Erika Robb Larkins says “the beauty of the contradiction of Brazil” is the coexistence of cultural vibrancy and the challenges facing segments of the population. Wealth neighbors poverty in close proximity throughout Rio de Janeiro.  

“Part of what has made Brazil’s inequality so famous is the fact that it is so striking. You really do see mansions next to shantytowns,” Robb Larkins says.  “What you do not see is that sometimes within these poor houses you will find people that have flat screen TVs or computers or the luxury goods that we would not really associate with the exterior of their house.”

Brazil has reduced this inequality within the last decade. As a result, the government has publicized the emergence of a new middle class coined classe C, or C class.  These individuals are marked by their purchasing power, but Robb Larkins says other indicators of class that are not being taken into consideration to define classe C.

“Inside of their house they might have the markers of middle class consumption, but when you go outside of the house they do not necessarily have that,” Robb Larkins says. “There is not adequate transportation. They are often living in precarious situations with violence.”

Robb Larkins says Brazil still has to resolve concerns about its capacity to respond to violence and petty crime, protests, and infrastructure constraints as the country prepares to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer and the 2016 Summer Olympics.


World Views is a collaboration between KGOU and the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies to bring internationally-focused reporting and interviews to listeners in Oklahoma and beyond. Help support these efforts with a donation online.