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INTERVIEW

Elza Salvatori Berquó: A pioneering spirit in demography

Researcher who revealed the changes in Brazilian reproductive behavior wants to know more about youth

Léo Ramos ChavesElza Salvatori Berquó is a specialist in statistics and demography with a special interest in exploring unexpected research fronts. She studied human reproduction in the city of São Paulo in the mid-1960s at the School of Public Health of the University of São Paulo (FSP-USP) and observed a decrease in the fertility rates of women in São Paulo. In May of this year, she continued in the same manner and urged researchers at the Center for Population Study at the University of Campinas (NEPO-UNICAMP) to immerse themselves in a new project to betterunderstand adolescent suicide, which has exhibited an increasing trend worldwide.

On August 8 of this year, Berquó received what she considered to be the definitive accolade to add to her collection of awards and honors when the auditorium at the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP) in São Paulo was named in her honor. “This honor from CEBRAP was all I was lacking,” she says. “Now there’s nothing missing.” In 2014, NEPO, which she created in 1982, incorporated the demographer’s name into the Center’s title. Recently, UNICAMP Publishing released Demografia na Unicamp – Um olhar sobre a produção do Nepo (Demography at UNICAMP: A look at NEPO’s production), edited by Berquó.

She has every right to be happy. When she was forced into mandatory retirement by Institutional Act No. 5 (AI-5, which is a defunct decree implemented by the military regime) in 1968, Berquó felt utterly lost. Her research projects at FSP-USP were terminated, and she was barred from entering the institution. The following year, she received an invitation to be one of the founders of CEBRAP with Fernando Henrique Cardoso (who would become President of Brazil), José Arthur Giannotti, Cândido Procópio Ferreira de Camargo (1922–1987) and a few selected persons. “She arrived with an established project, already knowing what she was going to do, and showed us the revolution that was happening in the reproduction habits of Brazilians,” recalled Giannotti during the homage.

Elza Berquó was born in Guaxupé, Minas Gerais. Due to constant relocating by her father, who was a postal service employee, she decided to study mathematics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Campinas (PUC-Campinas) when their family was based in that city. In 1950, three years after she graduated, she had the opportunity to work at FSP-USP. In her nearly 70 years as a mathematician, statistician, and demographer, she founded and helped create schools, centers, and institutions and was the principal academic responsible for the formal, mainstream teaching of demography in Brazil.

Age 92 years
Specialty
Demography
Education
Undergraduate degree in mathematics from PUC-Campinas (1947); doctorate in biostatistics from Columbia University, United States (1958)
Institution
The Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP)
Scientific production
Authored or edited approximately 26 books and 100 scientific articles

She married twice. Her first husband was the mathematician Rubens Murilo Marques, who played a significant role in the early years of UNICAMP. Her second husband was the public administrator José Ademar Dias to whom she remained married for 36 years until his death ten years ago. By choice, she had no children.

Her 92 years of age, which she celebrated on October 17, are a limiting factor only with regard to the physical aspects. “Stop working; I never stopped,” she says. Until she suffered a fall, she frequented CEBRAP at least three times a week. She recently resumed her visits on a less frequent basis. She primarily stays at home in the southern district of São Paulo in a building designed by her friend, the architect Villanova Artigas (1915-1985), a professor at the USP School of Architecture and Urbanism (FAU-USP). Artigas was also persecuted by the AI-5. The house-built to order by Berquó and her first husband—was completed in 1968 and became one of Artigas’s most admired works. Berquó frequently opens her doors to groups of architecture students and documentary filmmakers who wish to show the interior of the house. In her ample living room, which is filled with memorabilia from her travels, books, and science journals, Elza Berquó granted the following interview:

If the social security reforms under discussion are approved, people will have to spend a greater number of years in the labor market before they can retire. This requirement places pressure on young people who need jobs. Do you see any solution to this conflict?
No. People can retire at only 50 years of age due to their length of time on the job. Since they started working at a very early age, they can retire early. We have not observed a similar situation in other countries. I am not aware of anyone in Germany, for example, who is retiring at age 50. I think this issue needs attention to ensure that fair policies are implemented. Now, whether it’s the right time for the current government to do this is another story.

A forecast from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, IBGE, based on United Nations data from 2015, indicates that the profile of Brazil’s population is similar to that of more developed, older countries. Didn’t your studies predict this a long time ago?
This question was thoroughly addressed by demographers. The first phase of the demographic transition in Brazil began in the 1940s with the onset of the decline in mortality. The second phase occurred between 1960 and 1970, when we demonstrated that fertility rates were decreasing. The person who investigated this transition was the sociologist Vilmar Faria [1942–2001] at CEBRAP. In his analysis, families needed to be large because so many children died. However, some people would survive and would care for their parents in their old age. One of the reasons for the decreased fertility rates can be linked to the evolution of social security: parents realized that having numerous children due to future retirement benefits. Another factor was the appearance of the contraceptive pill in 1965. The media revolution, especially television, also contributed to the decline in fertility.

I suggested to NEPO researchers that they reflect on teen suicide, which is a global issue

How so?
Because all soap operas, which always had large audiences, showed a small model family. I had the opportunity to interview several soap opera directors when I investigated the influence of TV on the declining fertility rate. In 1996, and 1997, [the TV network] Globo aired O Rei do Gado (The king of cattle). I asked the directors, “Is Globo responsible for you having a model family that’s small?” They said, “Not at all, we prefer soaps with multiple small, nuclear families because it’s more interesting, instead of doing it like the Mexicans, where you have the rich and the poor, and the good and evil in two large families.” This research gained a substantial amount of fame. An important group of researchers participated in the study “The social impact of television on reproductive behavior.” The anthropologist Esther Hamburger of USP was one of the coordinators of the project, which had the participation of researchers from the Center for Development and Regional Planning at the Federal University of Minas Gerais [CEDEPLAR], NEPO, and the University of Texas in the United States. We performed our research in the cities São Paulo and Montes Claros in the state of Minas Gerais. We wanted to determine the influence of television on both a metropolitan city and a small city.

Do other factors explain the decline in fertility from the 1960s to the present?
The last factor is consumer credit policy. When you have credit and consumer aspirations, you need to consider how they align with the number of children. These four factors—social security, contraception, television, and consumer credit—in the words of Vilmar Faria, were not previously considered to reduce fertility rates; however, they did cause a reduction. In the 21st century in Brazil, a woman has 1.8 children on average, which is equivalent to either one child or two children. We performed one study at CEBRAP and published in part in Revista Brasileira de Estudos da População [the Brazilian Journal of Population Studies], by ABEP [Brazilian Association of Population Studies] in 2014 about a current phenomenon. Women marry at a later stage in their lives or do not marry and postpone reproduction. Time passes and eventually they become infertile. The concepts fecundity and fertility differ. Fertility is the ability to conceive; fecundity is the ability to deliver a live birth after conception. When a woman delays reproduction, she places herself on the descending part of a fertility curve, which decreases with age. When a woman is young, she is high on the curve. When a woman cannot get pregnant, she can use reproductive assistance if she can afford it. As fertility—and mortality—declines, the number of births and young people declines. However, the other part of the population lives longer. As a result, the aging populace increases due to fewer deaths.

How did the idea to research delayed reproduction arise?
Five years ago, when I talked to demographers who live in São Paulo but do not teach at a university, I noticed that they felt a certain anxiety because they only saw other demographers at ABEP meetings. I did not feel the same anxiety because I had my groups at CEBRAP and NEPO. I decided to create Demographic Coffee at CEBRAP. Once a month, I would meet outside researchers for coffee without an agenda. They came from the State Data Analysis Foundation [SEADE], the Carlos Chagas Foundation of the Santa Casa Charities, and the Institute of Health of the São Paulo State Department of Health. We would meet without an itinerary to discuss our research. After talking about things for a, while we decided that studying delayed reproduction was important. Subsequently, we prepared an agenda. The SEADE staff had the data on São Paulo because they have access to birth certificates with the mother’s age and socioeconomic condition. This project involved Bernadette Waldvogel and Carlos Eugenio Ferreira from SEADE, colleagues Sandra Garcia and Tânia di Giacomo do Lago from CEBRAP, and Luís Eduardo Batista from the Institute of Health. We worked together until we finished the paper and published the first work in the ABEP journal in 2014. Prior to this work, we conducted a seminar with this same team. In the article, we confirm the decrease in fertility rates between 1960 and 2010 and demonstrate an increase in the proportion of births of the first children among women between the ages 30 and 39 from 2000–2010. These data prompt us to posit the existence of delayed reproduction, either temporary or permanent, in the women of São Paulo.

Was this project named “A woman of 30”?
This project received this name due to the postponement of childbearing. Luiz Eduardo remembered, as a joke, a song by Miltinho [1928–2014], which is named “Mulher de 30” [A woman of 30]. The first chorus includes the lyrics “You, woman / Who have already lived, already suffered / Don’t lie / A sad goodbye in your eyes / We see it, woman of 30.” This memory christened the project. We investigate the same question for the citizens of Brazil because we were previously restricted to São Paulo.

Personal archive Cândido Procópio Ferreira de Camargo at the launch of Fertility in São Paulo by Maria Coleta de Oliveira and Berquó (right) in 1968Personal archive

Is research available that determines whether the data for the entire country differ from the data of São Paulo?
We have some results but we have not started the analysis. Over the course of my life, I have learned that an idea can slip through a crack. Sandra Garcia may be obtaining results and drawing some conclusions. The speed of her work currently is substantially greater than the speed of my work.

Did NEPO participate in this study?
No. I keep planting seeds in both places. When I attended NEPO’s 35th anniversary celebration in May of this year, I warned NEPO that I would not reminisce about previous activities. I had previously addressed these activities when NEPO celebrated their 20th, 25th and 30th anniversaries. Instead, I suggested that the researchers reflect on an important global issue, which is teen suicide. I want to work with CEBRAP on this issue, which is my most recent research interest. In Brazil, the issue became serious with a game that arrived from Russia named “Blue Whale” [teenagers have to meet 50 challenges that include self-mutilation and suicide].

Have you previously observed the behavior of young people?
In 2012, I launched a project at CEBRAP with the Carlos Chagas Foundation named “Giving the young a voice.” We worked in two cities—São Paulo and Itapeva [a small university city]—in the state of São Paulo. I was very intrigued by the sexuality of young people. Today, AIDS continues to proliferate among youth. Unplanned pregnancy also continues to increase, even with the morning-after pill and various other means for avoiding conception. The question was what do they want? I thought that I should listen to young people who discuss their sexuality. We requested participation via the CEBRAP website. I needed the help of communication experts to develop appealing language. The invitation was carefully constructed word by word and disseminated via social networks. The idea was to have public high school students aged 14 to 19 send a narrative that addresses any aspect of sexuality—love, sex, dating, desires, preferences, fears, and teenage pregnancy. We received 200 responses and selected the top 20 responses. I requested that the same committee that worked on the invitation assist with consulting. The researchers involved in the collaboration included Tânia Lago; Clarice Herzog, who works in advertising; Vera Paiva, who is a USP psychologist who studies AIDS; Sandra Unbehaum, who is the Coordinator of Educational Research at Carlos Chagas; Maria Coleta de Oliveira, who is a demographer at UNICAMP; Alessandro de Oliveira dos Santos, who works in the psychology department at USP; and Jairo Bouer, who is a doctor and educator. Once the narratives were selected, we offered screenwriting workshops at CEBRAP.

How did this process work?
The students who were selected took a 90-hour workshop. We had 20 narratives. In the first workshop, each of the adolescents received 20 narratives to read. They could choose the themes that they would be working on with the screenwriter. With the scripts, audiovisual director Paula Garcia would drive around the city with a teenager to find the best environment for shooting a movie based on the written responses of the teenager. They created ten videos; the length of each video ranged from 10 to 15 minutes. Five videos were made in São Paulo, and five videos were made in Itapeva. All the videos are available on YouTube. Itapeva was chosen because I wanted to observe the youth outside the capital, and the city’s suicide rate was slightly above average. I had been troubled by the suicide problem, and we decided to perform the research in Itapeva.

Afterwards, what was done with these videos?
We screened the videos on an open stage at the Heliópolis Cultural Center in São Paulo. The videos were also viewed in the teenagers’ homes with counselors who work with young people to observe the families’ reactions. This approach was important to us because the families had conservative members. At this point, our work was complete. Albertina Duarte, who is a physician at the USP School of Medicine, uses the videos when he works with young people. Everything has been recorded, but we have not published an article with this story.

Personal archive Receiving a bachelor’sdegree in mathematics from PUC-Campinas in 1947; in 1950, she attended the School of Public Health at USPPersonal archive

Has the research on suicide started?
We are seeking funding because we want to create an app. Worldwide, 123 apps are available for prevent suicide. In Brazil, we only have one app, which is terrible. Calma is an excellent app in Argentina. When a person is in the depths of depression, they press a button and hear, “Calm down,” and begin to receive help. We want to make a good app. I am setting up a focus group.

How did you research the conclusion regarding the need to research youth suicide?
First, we contacted the students. When they write their narratives, I feel like they are asking for help. Same-sex relationships have appeared in many of the stories that we received. Two of our videos addressed this topic. According to the statements of one of the young people, his family was scared by the contents of the video. The videos were also screened with the help of Jairo Bouer. In the presentation we made in Heliópolis, some family members were frightened by the video; however, they will have to travel this road. I approached numerous young people in Heliópolis. Based on the statistics, I thought that if young people know how to prevent AIDS and pregnancy and continue to engage in risky behavior, they want to take risks. I reasoned that they engage in risky behavior because they have reached a limit of disinterest in the available data.

Let’s talk a bit about your career. You received a degree in mathematics in 1947 and began to work with Professor Pedro Egydio de Oliveira Carvalho (1910–1958) at FSP-USP in 1950. What motivated you to leave Campinas?
PUC-Campinas previously hired teachers from abroad. The courses that I took were very good. Mathematics changed my concept of belief. We were educated in Euclidean geometry. However, I had teachers who taught me other geometries, where parallel lines meet. These geometries were not related to the notion that God exists in infinity. In the geometry of Nikolai Lobachevsky [Russian mathematician, 1792–1856], for example, the lines meet because his geometry is built on other axioms. Prior to visiting São Paulo [the city], I taught in a middle school in Capivari [in São Paulo State]. While on vacation with my family in Serra Negra, I met a young man who lived in the capital and was also educated as a mathematician. He had been invited to go to FSP-USP. Since he could not accept the invitation because he was going abroad, he asked if I was interested. I made an appointment with Pedro Egydio de Oliveira Carvalho who headed the Statistics Department. He was a physician, mathematician, and proficient in statistics. He accepted me but imposed his rules. At this time, a couple of Americans taught at the School of Philosophy, Sciences, and Languages and Literature, and I had to attend their classes. My job was to transcribe the entire class. When we returned to the college, I had to write a clean copy, and he checked it and said, “You took good notes.” When I completed postgraduate work at Columbia University in the United States between 1954 and 1956, he said, “Send me a copy of everything you study there, so that when you come back you won’t know more than I do.”

What made you switch from math to statistics and then to demography?
Although I liked math, a certain determinism made me feel hemmed in. When I entered the field of statistics, I discovered that probabilistic models were delightful because things have a certain probability of being and likewise of not being. These models enchanted me. I had numerous achievements in statistics. At some point, we say so what? What is the explanation behind the results that makes everything happen? What are the social, economic, cultural, and political determinants? I wanted to work with these elements. That is demography.

What is the explanation behind the statistics? I wanted to work with those elements, which pertain to demography

Did you reach this conclusion in the United States?
No, it was right here. When Pedro Egydio died prematurely in 1958 at age 48, I returned to Columbia for two months to prepare my doctoral thesis and compete for a professorship at FSP, which occurred in 1960. Ruth Gold [1921–2009] and Agnes Berger [1916–2002] were two top statisticians who had worked with Jerzy Neyman [Russian-born American, 1894–1981], who was a luminary of mathematical statistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and who I subsequently met and was a considerable influence on me. At this time, Ruth and Agnes were in Columbia and said that we can collaborate on my thesis. We chose to perform statistical sequential analysis, which was new at this time, from the Hungarian Abraham Wald [1902–1950]. In sequential analysis, the sample size is not fixed in advance. A hypothesis can be accepted, rejected, or require additional work because sufficient evidence may not be available to make a decision about the hypothesis. The analysis differed from hypothesis testing, where the sample size is fixed in advance. To obtain examples to use in my thesis, we collaborated with the medical school in Columbia and used one of their studies of the use of two different drugs for premature babies. My thesis addressed the use of this statistical method for public health problems.

Five decades ago, demography seemed to have minimal importance in Brazil. Today, public administrators don’t perform any planning without considering demography. When did this change begin?
I founded CEDIP [Center for the Study of Population Dynamics], which was the first center for demographic education in Brazil, at FSP in 1966. Earlier, I ran the Statistics Department when Pedro Egydio died. Since the School of Philosophy did not have a statistics or mathematics department, and I knew I would need both departments, I created a degree program for statistical mathematics with Rubens Murilo Marques, who was my first husband. I received a considerable amount of support for this group. To form the demography group, I invited the physician João Yunes [1936–2002], who became the State Secretary of Health many years later; sociologist Neide Patarra [1939–2013]; mathematician-sociologist Jair Lício Ferreira Santos; economist Paul Singer; and Cândido Procópio, who is also a sociologist and became the first president of CEBRAP. I already had the viewpoint that demography is multidisciplinary. With the exception of Procópio, who was older, the remainder of the group consisted of young people who left Colombia with scholarships from OPAS [the Pan American Health Organization] to complete graduate studies in demography, each in a different place. Yunes attended Michigan, Singer attended Princeton, and Neide and Jair attended Chicago. Procópio was well known and traveled throughout the United States and Europe to learn about demographics programs that could help us to form CEDIP. An agreement between FSP and OPAS, in which the organizations would underwrite graduate scholarships and salaries for five years, was constructed. After five years, the college would assume the expenses. After we created CEDIP and started working, FSP did not honor these commitments. For this agreement with OPAS, the dean of the college was Rodolfo dos Santos Mascarenhas [1909–1979]. An interesting situation happened during this period. I was a faculty representative on the University Council at USP. I attended a meeting with Professor Mascarenhas. The meeting was delayed, and I asked him about the reason for the delay. Apparently, the student representative did not have a suit coat, was in his shirtsleeves, and could not enter the meeting room. I said, “It’s absurd that a student can’t enter in shirtsleeves.” Then, they said to me, “But would you come in here in a bikini?” I said, “If I wore a bikini around on the street, I would.” I won the argument. The student came in, and some of the teachers tore off their ties. I can picture the student to this day. He came walking in and I thought, “Is this what the University Council is all about?” I told Mascarenhas, “I really don’t want to come here anymore.” I did not return.

Before CEDIP, was demography taught or researched in Brazil?
Demography was not taught in a formal manner or linked to a university, only at IBGE in Rio [de Janeiro]. João Lira Madeira [1909–1979] was a demographer who was interested in educating other demographers. Giorgio Mortara [1885–1967], who was from Italy, coordinated two important censuses in Brazil—in 1940 and 1950. Lira Madeira worked with him. IBGE was the only place where demography was explored.

In 1965, you conducted your study “Human reproduction in the district of São Paulo.” How did that come about?
We conducted this study with Paul Singer, Neide Patarra, and Maria Coleta de Oliveira. We had the censuses from 1940 and 1950. The 1960 census was completed but was not published until 1978. Several different stories discuss this census. A computer was used to speed up production of the data with the opposite effect. One version indicates that the data had been sent to advanced data centers, such centers in Chicago, to compute everything. The research material could have been in an airplane, and the encryption could have been lost for some reason. Some people blame the disappearance of the data on the military regime, which began in 1964. According to sociologist Nelson do Valle’s version, the material with the results was lost inside a warehouse at IBGE. Since we did not have the data from 1960, we could not demonstrate the decreased fertility rate because we only knew the data from 1940 and 1950. We restricted our study to the city of São Paulo; the results showed a decreasing fertility rate.

One work I liked very much was the ‘Program for the education of Black researchers’

A few years later, the government implemented the AI-5 in December 1968, and you were terminated. The following year, CEBRAP was founded. How did it happen so quickly?
My termination was attributed to the prestige of Fernando Henrique, who had the support of São Paulo businessmen who disagreed with the dictatorship, and the Ford Foundation, which made a large endowment to CEBRAP. In addition, his father and grandfather were military men, although this fact did not have a direct effect. Living in this house, which at that time was distant from everything, was terrible. The day after AI-5 started, I could not enter FSP. I lived here, far away, and became very isolated.

However, this isolation became important at a certain point…
Yes, I wanted to tell this story. I hid some young people here who were part of the armed struggle. This house was located on the outskirts of the city, where it was easier to shelter people who were being pursued. Nearly all ten of the people we hosted, including a pregnant girl, were subsequently killed by the regime. They did not stay for a long time: they arrived, they spent a few days, they left, and others took their place. Nobody knew anybody’s name, neither my name nor Rubens, who was my husband at the time and who was connected to the Brazilian Communist Party, as was Villanova Artigas. I never joined a party. The young people who stayed here got bored and asked for something to do. They painted these tiles with burned oil [she points to part of the room]. They left that historic mark on this house. The house had just been finished and the tiles were made of natural brick.

Did Rubens ever get arrested?
He was arrested by OBAN [Operation Bandeirantes] in 1971. One Saturday, were having coffee after lunch, and he suddenly said, “Don’t move.” He had seen people starting to come down the ramp toward our house. An OBAN group took him as a prisoner. He spent a few weeks there, even though his uncle was the State Secretary of Public Safety at the time.

Why didn’t you return to the university right after the Amnesty in 1979?
I received invitations from FSP from Oswaldo Forattini [1924–2007], who was director of the college at the time, and the IME [Institute of Mathematics and Statistics at USP]. With the 1968 University Reform that occurred while we were banned from the university, my discipline of statistical mathematics went to IME, which was actually the best place for it. To decide between FSP and IME, I locked myself in the house for 72 hours to make a decision. My heart chose FSP. When I told them I was returning, Forattini told me that I would have to be approved by the Faculty Board, which I thought was obvious. However, when the Board voted, 50% of the Board voted against me. Forattini cast a vote in my favor. I decided not to return. The most conservative people imaginable stayed at FSP. I stayed at CEBRAP, which turned out very well.

How was the move to UNICAMP?
In 1982, UNICAMP Dean José Aristodemo Pinotti [1934–2009] invited me. I accepted his invitation with the condition that I would have no participation in university bureaucracy. I also asked for carte blanche to create a research center. These centers at the university were in the creation phase. He had already reached the conclusion that the departments were too isolated and did not communicate with each other, and he wanted to establish communications. The research centers that he created achieved this goal. I created NEPO and coordinated it for several years, but I did not want to hold any positions, and I did not accumulate pensions.

When do you consider that the study of demography was firmly established?
Demography has been established since the creation of ABEP in 1976, with the support of the Ford Foundation, and in the middle of the dictatorship. Today, we have CEDEPLAR at UFMG [Federal University of Minas Gerais], which is a beautiful center for demography, and NEPO. IBGE has achieved considerable progress with the National School of Statistics, which studies demographics; other centers exist. Ford financed ABEP because it had already funded several centers of excellence, including CEBRAP. In their experience, centers of excellence were not sufficient. An entity that connected the centers, such as associations, were needed. Ford funded several of these centers, such as ANPOCS [National Association for Graduate Studies and Research in Social Sciences], during the same period.

What was your most significant work at CEBRAP? Do you have any favorites?
I worked on various important projects. One of the most interesting project was the “National Study on Human Reproduction,” which was a multidisciplinary project that was performed from 1973 to 1978. This project was a continuation of the work that we began at FSP in 1965 on the reproduction of São Paulo women, which had been interrupted by the military regime firings. This study was a large study that explored the relationships between reproductive behavior and the various methods of organization of labor and production using an innovative theoretical/methodological framework. The research plan was derived from a theoretical effort in the search for typologies of Brazilian regions, which included two dimensions: the dominant forms of the organization of production in each region and the methods of interaction between each region and the social division of labor during their development. In this study, a typology of the rural and urban sectors of Brazil was established in nine areas, from the rural servitude of Conceição do Araguaia in the state of Pará to the capitalism and socioeconomic structure of São José dos Campos in the state of São Paulo. This research strategy was established by Vilmar Faria and Juarez Brandão Lopes [1925–2011]. The histories of each region were written by CEBRAP researchers, such as Cândido Procópio, Fernando Henrique, Juarez, Vilmar, Neide Patarra, Octavio Ianni [1926–2004], Bolívar Lamounier, Vinícius Caldeira Brant [1941–1999], and Maria da Conceição Quinteiro. Fernando Henrique, for example, researched São José dos Campos. This study involved CEBRAP in a unique manner. This situation has not reoccurred—at least not in demography. Another project that I like very much is the “Program for the education of Black researchers,” which was conducted out between 1994 and 1996. The MacArthur Foundation funded this project with a donation of US$2.3 million.

Why Black researchers?
We go back to the censuses. The item race/color was in the census of 1940 and that of 1950; the 1960 census was not published; and in 1970, the military regime removed this information. There was a long period where we did not have any data about color. We did not know how the Black population was doing in Brazil. We felt the lack of that information. When the 1980 census came out, the Black population appeared there at the bottom in every indicator. I thought we needed to do something. I began to study Black demographics, did a study on the reproductive health of Black women between 1991 and 1993, published papers, and we held several seminars at CEBRAP on this topic. I also wanted to know about Black researchers. The problem was that when we held open competitions for research grants, Blacks never won—white people won them. I decided to hold a specific competition with grants for Black researchers. In the first round of the program, I prepared four researchers, all with degrees in social sciences. For two years, they were trained to do field research and studied statistics and demography. Then, they did their doctoral work. They also researched the health of Black women. They went out in the field and filled out questionnaires, and then we did the analysis. We published this study. There is a video called Eu, mulher negra [I, Black woman], with some of the research findings. I did the second round of the program because the MacArthur Foundation thought the first was incredible. Today, these researchers are working at universities throughout Brazil or international institutions.

After performing research on these diverse fronts, what are the subjects for demography research that still excite you today?
I am interested in refugees. For example, NEPO has the Migration Observatory, which is coordinated by Rosana Baeninger. This subject is fundamental. In the area of reproduction, the delay issue is important. The problems of young people, such as sexually transmitted diseases, are relevant.

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