How Large Is the Brazilian Diaspora In the US?

The US has the world’s largest population of Brazilians living abroad, but the exact number is hard to quantify

Brazilian residents in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.
May 04, 2023 | 07:05 PM

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Bloomberg Línea — Brazilian migration to the United States has been steady but not significant over the past four decades. However, for the last 10 years, the number of people arriving from Brazil has been of a unique magnitude and according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the Brazilian diaspora increased by almost 50% between 2010 and 2019, although the exact number is unknown.

According to the MPI, during that period the number of Brazilians in the US rose from 340,000 to 502,000. As a result, the United States now has the largest Brazilian immigrant population in the world.

In terms of the exact numbers, there are some discrepancies, however.

Data from the US Census Bureau reveals that a significant portion of Brazilians identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, so the processing of the data generated discrepancies in the final number.

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The revelation was released by Pew Research Center when conducting its annual population survey in 2020, and in which around 416,000 Brazilians identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, or about two-thirds of the Brazilians in the United States.

Paradoxically, in 2019, only 14,000 Brazilians identified themselves as Hispanic, while 16,000 did so in 2021, and the latest data reveal discrepancies among the various organizations that survey the population.

The federal government’s official definition of Hispanic, last updated in 1997, does not include Brazilians, Pew Research Center points out, and therefore says that “people who reported their identity as Brazilian in Census Bureau surveys would later be “recategorized” or “recoded,” in most cases. They would then be classified as non-Latino or Hispanic.”

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Why do Brazilians migrate to the US?

The causes are multiple, but it is the economic one that leads the migratory trend.

Brazil entered an economic recession in 2012 that was accompanied by high unemployment, a situation accompanied by an increase in crime, state-level corruption and growing political volatility.

The strong appreciation of the US dollar against the Brazilian real and the effects of the pandemic have left an increasing proportion of Brazilians in food insecurity, the study claims, making the United States an attractive destination.

Half of all Brazilian immigrants resided in three states in 2015-19: Florida (22%), Massachusetts (17%) and California (11%).


The MPI states that Brazilians have been seeking to enter the United States through the Mexican border and this has been on the rise. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded around 3,100 apprehensions of Brazilians at the southern border in fiscal year 2016, while in 2021 that number jumped to a record of nearly 57,000.

In December 2021, Brazilians began to need a tourist visas to enter Mexico. Initially, there was a sharp drop in CBP encounters with Brazilians at the southern US border after Mexico’s implementation of the visa requirement, from around 7,900 in December 2021 to 1,300 in March 2022.

However, the numbers began increasing again, reaching 4,800 in May 2022.

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