The international development community has long been pre-occupied with the reduction of absolute income poverty, relegating concerns with inequality to the margins of its policy agenda. The Millennium Development Goals, for instance, which were adopted by 189 world leaders at the 2000 Millennium Summit, defined the reduction of absolute poverty by 2015 as its overarching goal. However, concerns about the dramatic rise in income inequality across the world have been growing over the last few decades and came to the forefront of public consciousness in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008. At the same time, assessments of national progress on the Millennium Development Goals made it clear that income inequality alone did not explain the distribution of gains and losses across countries. Rather it was the intersection of income inequality, marginalized social identities and, very often, locational disadvantage which led to the systematic exclusion of certain groups. In recognition of this, the Sustainable Development Goals which became the basis of the new post-2015 international development agenda now includes a commitment to the reduction of income and other inequalities, summarized as the principle of ‘leave no one behind’. Our paper uses national data from Brazil between 2002 and 2013 to examine retrospectively how it has performed on some of the indicators relating to the inclusive principles articulated by the SDGs. We have selected this period in Brazil because at a time when income inequalities were rising in most countries of the world, they were declining in Brazil. Our paper examines the extent to which this decline in income inequality was accompanied by a decline in intersecting inequalities and explores some of the economic, political and social explanations given for the country’s performance.
Download paper (PDF)