Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Murat F. Iyigun

Second Advisor

Ann M. Carlos

Third Advisor

Carol Shiue


I investigate the economic determinants of the spatial distribution of race in Brazil from 1500 to 2000 C.E. I construct time-series for the populations of European, African, and Native peoples within the borders of twenty modern states and find that areas with more valuable natural resources adopted slavery but the race of those slaves (African or Native) depended on their relative cost. In Chapter Two, I compile all published statistics on the demographic history of Brazil. I discuss the political economy of each period, and trace the evolution of each region from a population of Indigenous, to African or European, and then European or African descent. I examine population growth rates and map the extent of Portuguese settlement over time. In Chapter Three, I evaluate these figures with respect to population estimates based on the production of staples and African slave imports. Surprisingly, I find that the African and Mulatto population had positive rates of natural increase earlier than thought. The results indicate that the population data have acceptable margins of error. In Chapter Four, I quantify the size of the indigenous population and its spatial distribution at Contact. Predator-prey and agricultural-yields models are combined to calculate the sustainable carrying capacity of Natives. Furthermore, I consider the allocation of resources to farming versus hunting-and-gathering. My resulting population estimates are within the range of existing figures (but may be revised upwards) and at a fine resolution. Using these data, in Chapter Five I examine the determinants of spatial and temporal variation of race in Brazil. I present a model in which slave owners choose the optimal mix of slaves based on their productivity, mortality, and price. Using transportation costs to proxy for prices, I evaluate the model and conclude that increased scarcity of Native labor led to the adoption of African slaves, particularly where most profitable. In this dissertation, I present a reliable consolidated source of disaggregated population data over the history of Brazil that explicitly considers the dynamics of African and Native populations. The data confirm that the racial composition of Brazil is largely a vestige of the pre-abolition economy.