According to recent statistics released in May 2008 by the Brazilian statistics bureau, IBGE, Brazil  has a population of more than 186 million people, making it the sixth most populous country in the world. Until the mid-20th century, Brazil was a largely rural place. However, today more than 70 percent of the people live in major cities, most of which line the coast. In contrast, the vast Amazonian region is practically deserted.
The most populous Brazilian city is São Paulo  with 11 million people (according to 2007 IBGE figures), followed by Rio de Janeiro  with 6.1 million, and then Salvador  with 2.9 million. Indeed, the vast majority of the population is concentrated in the Southeast states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo.
Life expectancy among Brazilians has improved greatly in recent decades. In 2008, the average life-span of Brazilian women was 76.4 years, while for men it was 68.8 years. Meanwhile, the days of big families are a thing of the past. The average Brazilian woman today bears 1.86 children.
Although the official literacy rate of Brazilians over the age of 15 is 89 percent, the concept of “literacy” should be taken with a grain of salt. Included among so-called “literate” Brazilians are many people who can do little more than write numbers and their names, and recognize a few dozen simple words.