Demographics of South America

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South America population pyramid in 2023 based on the United Nations geoscheme for the Americas South America grouping.

As of 2017, South America has an estimated population of 418.76 million people.

Population and density[edit]

Life expectancy in South America in 2021
Country / Territory Area
(km2)[1] (sq mi)
(July 2017 est.)[2]
Population density
(per km2)
 Argentina 2,766,890 km2 (1,068,300 sq mi) 44,293,293 16.0/km² (41.4/sq mi) Buenos Aires
 Bolivia 1,098,580 km2 (424,160 sq mi) 11,138,234 10.13/km² (26.3/sq mi) La Paz and Sucre[3]
 Brazil 8,514,877 km2 (3,287,612 sq mi) 217,240,060 24.35/km² (63.1/sq mi) Brasília
 Chile[4]   756,950 km2 (292,260 sq mi) 17,789,267 23.5/km² (60.9/sq mi) Santiago
 Colombia 1,138,910 km2 (439,740 sq mi) 47,698,524 41.88/km² (105.9/sq mi) Bogotá
 Ecuador   283,560 km2 (109,480 sq mi) 16,290,913 57.45/km² (148.8/sq mi) Quito
 Falkland Islands (United Kingdom)[5]    12,173 km2 (4,700 sq mi) 3,198[6] 0.26/km² (0.7/sq mi) Stanley
 French Guiana (France)    91,000 km2 (35,000 sq mi) 221,500[7] 2.7/km² (5.4/sq mi) Cayenne
 Guyana   214,999 km2 (83,012 sq mi) 737,718 3.43/km² (8.9/sq mi) Georgetown
 Paraguay   406,750 km2 (157,050 sq mi) 6,943,739 17.07/km² (44.2/sq mi) Asunción
 Peru 1,285,220 km2 (496,230 sq mi) 31,036,656 24.14/km² (62.5/sq mi) Lima
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Georgia and
South Sandwich Islands
(United Kingdom)
    3,093 km2 (1,194 sq mi) 30 0/km² (0/sq mi) Grytviken
 Suriname   163,270 km2 (63,040 sq mi) 591,919 3.62/km² (9.4/sq mi) Paramaribo
 Uruguay   176,220 km2 (68,040 sq mi) 3,360,148 19.06/km² (49.4/sq mi) Montevideo
 Venezuela   912,050 km2 (352,140 sq mi) 31,304,016 34.32/km² (88.9/sq mi) Caracas
Total 17,824,513 418,762,546 24.49/km2

Largest population centres[edit]

Largest population centres of South America by metropolitan area
Rank City name Member state Pop. Rank City name Member state Pop.

São Paulo

Buenos Aires

1 São Paulo Brazil 21,090,792 11 Fortaleza Brazil 3,985,297
Rio de Janeiro


2 Buenos Aires Argentina 13,693,657 12 Salvador Brazil 3,953,290
3 Rio de Janeiro Brazil 13,131,431 13 Recife Brazil 3,914,397
4 Bogotá Colombia 10,777,931 14 Medellín Colombia 3,777,009
5 Lima Peru 9,904,727 15 Curitiba Brazil 3,502,804
6 Santiago Chile 6,683,852 16 Campinas Brazil 3,094,181
7 Belo Horizonte Brazil 5,829,923 17 Guayaquil Ecuador 2,952,159
8 Caracas Venezuela 5,322,310 18 Cali Colombia 2,911,278
9 Porto Alegre Brazil 4,258,926 19 Quito Ecuador 2,653,330
10 Brasília Brazil 4,201,737 20 Maracaibo Venezuela 2,576,836


An estimated 90.0% of South Americans are Christians[10] (82% Catholic, 8% other Christian denominations mainly traditional Protestants and Evangelicals but also Orthodoxy), accounting for ca. 19% of Christians worldwide.

Crypto-Jews or Marranos, conversos, and Anusim were an important part of colonial life in Latin America.

Both Buenos Aires, Argentina and São Paulo, Brazil figure among the largest Jewish populations by urban area.

Japanese Buddhism and Shinto-derived Japanese new religions are common in Brazil and Peru. Korean Confucianism is especially found in Brazil while Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Confucianism is spread throughout the continent.

Kardecist Spiritism can be found in several countries.

Religions in South America as of 2013:[11]

Religion in South America
Country Christians Catholics Other Christians No religion (atheists and agnostics)
 Argentina 88% 77% 11% 11%
 Bolivia 96% 74% 22% 4%
 Brazil 86% 64% 22% 9%
 Chile 70% 57% 13% 25%
 Colombia 92% 80% 12% 7%
 Paraguay 95% 85% 10% 2%
 Peru 94% 81% 13% 3%
 Suriname 51% 29% 22% 5%
 Uruguay 58% 47% 11% 41%
 Venezuela 88% 71% 17% 8%


In terms of race, the demographics of South America shows a mixture of Africans, Amerindians, Europeans, Anusim or Marranos, and to a lesser extent Arabs, Romanis, and East Asians. A mixture of Amerindian and European ancestry is often referred to as mestizo or caboclo/mameluco. Castizos are people whose DNA is mostly European with Indigenous markers assimilation. A mixture of Amerindian and African ancestry is referred to in many South American countries as zambo or cafuzo. A mixture of European and African ancestry is referred to as mulatto. A mix of European and Japanese is referred as ainoko or hafu. Chile administers Easter Island in the South Pacific, which is home to 2,500 Polynesians, the Rapa Nui people.

Racial distribution in South America[12][13]
Country Amerindians White people Mestizos Mulattos Black people Zambos East Asians Other East Indians
 Argentina 1.0% 85.0% 14.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Bolivia 53.0% 14.0% 30.0% 2.4% 0.0% 0.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Brazil 0.4% 47.7% 22.9% 20.1% 7.6% 0.0% 1.1% 0.0% 0.0%
 Chile 3.0% 52.0 % 48.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Colombia 1.8% 37.0% 49.0% 8.2% 2.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Ecuador 25.0% 9.9% 56.1% 3.9% 5.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
 Guyana 10.5% 1.5% 0.0% 0.0% 29.3% 0.0% 0.0% 19.9% 39.8%
 Paraguay 3.0% 43.0% 55.0% 0.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Peru 37.0% 20.0% 38.0% 2.0% 0.0% 0.0% 3.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Suriname 3.8% 1.0% 0.0% 15.7% 21.7% 0.0% 0.0% 13.4% 42.6%
 Uruguay 0.0% 88.0% 8.0% 4.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Venezuela 2.7% 42.7% 49.7% 7.7% 2.0% 0.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.0%

South America is home to 400 million people, of which 180 million is composed of Whites with several different European extractions, as well as people with other lineages including 17 million Levantine Arabs, mostly Christians from the Levant region, (found in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile), 440 thousand Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (mostly Argentina and Brazil, with both figuring among the top 10 largest Jewish diasporas) and 1.3 million Crypto-Jews or Anusim.

According to genetic tests, the most prevalent DNA marker found in all people of the continent (including Whites and mixed peoples) is a marker for Iberian genes (Portuguese and Spaniard).[citation needed] After Iberian (i.e.Lusitanian, Galician, Castilian and Catalan), the main European ethnicities are Italian, German and Slavic, followed by French and Dutch.

Brazil has 31 million Italians and Argentina 20, Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador also have considerable Italian diasporas. Brazil has 15.7 million Germans, Austrians, Luxembourgers and Swiss (second largest German diaspora after US) and Argentina 3.5 million consisting mostly of Russian Volga Germans. Other German groups can be found in Chile, Bolivia (mostly Mennonites), Paraguay (mostly German-Brazilians but including Mennonites), Peru, Uruguay and colonies in Venezuela.

Brazil has the largest Slavic population with the number of Poles[14] reaching 3 million people, followed by Ukrainians and Russians but comprising many other nationalities. Argentina following with the second largest number of Slavs, comprises a sizeable Croatian population, although Chile's Croatian community is the largest outside Croatia.

Brazil has the largest Dutch and Scandinavian (mostly Norwegian) populations as well as the largest Lithuanian diaspora outside Baltic states. A small number of Boers or White Afrikaners migrated to South America during the 20th century, heading especially to Argentina and Brazil. And Lithuanian refugees fleeing the Nazi invasion and Soviet annexation in WW2 also formed communities in Colombia and Venezuela. Brazil also comprises the largest Hungarian, Estonian and Finnish diasporas, being followed by Argentina in terms of nationalities of Uralic languages. Argentina has the largest French and Irish populations, respectively 6 million and 1 million, while Argentine Patagonia is home to Welsh and Swedish colonies. Brazil and Chile are also home to considerable French ancestry populations. A great part of the French immigrants in Chile were of Basque descent, with the number of Basques estimated at 4 million. Chile has 800 thousand British and Irish people. Brazil and Argentina also have sizable British Latin American populations, being the responsible for the introduction of football in the 19th century.

The number of Gypsies or Romani people revolves around 1.120 million, with a possibility of being much higher, being spread all over the continent. Most of the Romanis in Brazil are of Eastern European and Baltic background, while most of the Gypsies in Argentina, Chile and Colombia came from Spain.

South America is also home to 124 million Castizo, Mestizo or Caboclo people (citizens whose DNA is mostly European spanning from 65 to 90% European genes with considerable Indigenous admixture) and 27 million people with pure Indigenous extraction, mostly found in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, South of Colombia and parts of Chile and Northwest Argentina. Mestizos make the majority in Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.

Black phenotype and Mulatto population are respectively 18 and 48 million, when combined 66 million. Mulattos have a range of 60 to 80% European genes and are mostly found in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana where French ancestry Mulattos are the majority. To a much smaller percentage degree they can be found in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay. The Guianas region where today are the independent states of Guyana and Suriname as well as France overseas department of French Guiana is home to the Maroons (formerly called "Bush Negroes") who are of African descent, with some Amerindian admixture. The Maroons, descendants of escaped African slaves, live primarily along the Maroni River.

Most East Indian Hindus and Muslims live in Guyana and Suriname which is also home to a large Muslim Javanese community. East Indians are the vast majority in Guyana, followed by Blacks and also the majority in Suriname where they are followed by Maroons and Creoles.

Indonesians from the island of Java make 13.7% of Suriname's population which figures as 275 thousand Javanese people. Dutch Surinamese or Boeroes make the minority of the country due to the fact that most of the Dutch emigrated to Brazil or returned to the Netherlands after Suriname's independence.

South America is home to over 5 million Asians, mostly East Asians, with Brazil and Peru having the largest Asian Latin American populations. Peru and Venezuela have greatly numerous 19th century Chinese coolie populations with almost 1.9 million Chinese people combined. Peru itself is home to over 1.4 million Chinese Peruvians, mostly arriving as indentured servants. The Asian-Brazilian population is mostly composed of Japanese descendants and Japanese nationals, but it also comprises over 250 thousand Chinese and 50 thousand Taiwanese recent immigrants. Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador also follow in numbers of Chinese immigrants.

Brazil is home to the largest Japanese and Korean populations in the continent with respectively 1.8 million and 140 thousand people. The Nipponic or Nipponese population in Brazil is the largest Japanese diaspora outside Japan. Koreans can also be found in Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay and Chile. Peru is home to 160 thousand Japanese descendants, and Nipponese populations are also found in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Venezuela. Argentina is home to the largest Filipino population with 15 thousand people.

Other Asian nationalities can be found in smaller numbers, such as South Asians or East Indians, Southeast Asians and Central Asians. Brazil has 5 thousand Vietnamese people, 10 thousand East Indians, as well as 5 thousand Afghans, and a small number of Iranians. Argentina also have small numbers of Southern Asians or East Indians, while being home to most Southeast Asians, mostly Filipino.

Brazil is home to the largest White Latin American population in absolute numbers constituting 98 million people. Uruguay has the largest percentage with 90.7% being Caucasian or over 3 million people. Argentina equally corresponds to the second largest population and percentage with 39 million people, followed by Colombia with 18m, Venezuela 13.1m, Chile 9.5m, Peru 5.8m, Bolivia 2m, Paraguay 1.3m and Ecuador with 980 thousand.

Roughly 14% of the population in French Guiana is of European ancestry, numbering at 35 thousand people. The vast majority of these are of French heritage, though there are also people of Dutch, British, Spanish and Portuguese ancestry. Countries that make part of South America but do not have Romance languages as their official national languages are Guyana, Suriname and the Falkland Islands.

Suriname has 2% of Europeans and Levantines or 12 thousand people, including Lebanese and Jews. Most Boeroes or Dutch Surinamese left after independence in 1975. There are less than 3 thousand Whites in Guyana where 0.5% of the population is counted as "others". The Falkland Islands have a low population density.

According to the 2012 census, the average daily population of the Falklands was 2,932, excluding military personnel serving in the archipelago and their dependents. The Falklands are a homogeneous society, with the majority of inhabitants descended from Scottish and Welsh immigrants who settled the territory in 1833. Other groups are English, French, Gibraltarian, Scandinavian, Saint Helenian and Argentine.

Indigenous peoples[edit]

Main indigenous language families of South America (except Quechua, Aymaran, and Mapuche).
Main native languages in Latin America, legend:
  Quechua   Guarani   Aymara
  Nahuatl   Mayan languages   Mapuche

Indigenous people make up about half of the population of Peru and Bolivia. In many places indigenous people still practice a traditional lifestyle based on subsistence agriculture or as hunter-gatherers. There are still some uncontacted tribes residing in the Amazon Rainforest.


Argentina's indigenous population in 2010 was about 900,329 (2.38% of total population); this figure includes 457,363 people who self-identified as belonging to an indigenous ethnic group, and the remaining 142,966 who recognized themselves as first-generation descendants of an Amerindian people.[15] The ten most populous indigenous peoples are the Mapuche (113,680 people), the Kolla (70,505), the Toba (69,452) and the Guaraní (68,454).


In Bolivia, a 62% majority of residents over the age of 15 self-identify as belonging to an indigenous people, while another 3.7% grew up with an indigenous mother tongue yet do not self-identify as indigenous.[16] Including both of these categories, and children under 15, some 66.4% of Bolivia's population was registered as indigenous in the 2001 Census.[17] The largest indigenous ethnic groups are: Quechua (about 2,500,000 people), Aymara (2,000,000), Chiquitano (181.000), Guaraní (126.000) and Mojeño (69,000).


The Amerindians make up 0.4% of Brazil's population, or about 700,000 people.[18][19] Indigenous peoples are found in the entire territory of Brazil, although the majority of them live in indigenous territories in the North and Centre-Western part of the country. On 18 January 2007, FUNAI reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this addition Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes.[20]


According to the 2002 Census, 4.6% of the Chilean population (including the Rapanui of Easter Island) 692,000 persons was self-identified of indigenous origins.[21] Many are descendants of the Mapuche, and live in Santiago, Araucanía and the lake district. Other groups include the Aimara who live mainly in Arica-Parinacota and Tarapacá Region and has the mayority of their alikes living in Bolivia and Peru and the Alacalufe survivors who now reside mainly in Puerto Edén.


Colombia's indigenous peoples nonetheless encompass at least 85 distinct cultures and more than 1,378,884 people.[22][23] A variety of collective rights for indigenous peoples are recognized in the 1991 Constitution. One of these is the Muisca culture, a subset of the larger Chibcha ethnic group, famous for their use of gold, which led to the legend of El Dorado.


At the present the 25% of Ecuador's population is of indigenous heritage. Approximately 96.4% of Ecuador's Indigenous population are Highland Quichuas living in the valleys of the Sierra region. Primarily consisting of the descendants of Incans, they are Kichwa speakers and include the Caranqui, the Otavaleños, the Cayambi, the Quitu-Caras, the Panzaleo, the Chimbuelo, the Salasacan, the Tugua, the Puruhá, the Cañari, and the Saraguro.


Indigenous population in Peru make up around 34%. Native Peruvian traditions and customs have shaped the way Peruvians live and see themselves today. Cultural citizenship—or what Renato Rosaldo has called, "the right to be different and to belong, in a democratic, participatory sense" (1996:243)—is not yet very well developed in Peru. This is perhaps no more apparent than in the country's Amazonian regions where indigenous societies continue to struggle against state-sponsored economic abuses, cultural discrimination, and pervasive violence.[24]


Indigenous population in Venezuela form about 2% of the total population,[25] although many Venezuelans share some indigenous ancestry. Indigenous people are concentrated in the Southern Amazon rainforest state of Amazonas, where they make up nearly 50% of the population and in the Andes of the western state of Zulia. The most numerous indigenous people, at about 200,000, is the Venezuelan part of the Wayuu (or Guajiro) people who primarily live in Zulia between Lake Maracaibo and the Colombian border. Another 100,000 or so indigenous people live in the sparsely populated southeastern states of Amazonas, Bolívar, and Delta Amacuro.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Land areas and population estimates are taken from The 2008 World Factbook which currently uses August 2007 data, unless otherwise noted.
  2. ^ "The World Factbook – Central Intelligence Agency". Archived from the original on 13 June 2007. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  3. ^ La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia;
  4. ^ Includes Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, a Chilean territory frequently reckoned in Oceania. Santiago is the administrative capital of Chile; Valparaíso is the site of legislative meetings.
  5. ^ Claimed by Argentina.
  6. ^ "The World Factbook – Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  7. ^ (Jan. 2009) INSEE, Government of France. "Population des régions au 1er janvier" (in French). Retrieved 20 January 2009.
  8. ^ Claimed by Argentina; the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean are commonly associated with Antarctica (due to proximity) and have no permanent population, only hosting a periodic contingent of about 100 researchers and visitors.
  9. ^ "Encuesta Intercensal 2015: Presentación de resultados" (PDF). INEGI. p. 5. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  10. ^ Christians – Pew Research Center
  11. ^ "Las religiones en tiempos del Papa Francisco" (in Spanish). Latinobarómetro. April 2014. p. 7. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  12. ^ "CIA — The World Factbook -- Field Listing — Ethnic groups". Archived from the original on 13 June 2007. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  13. ^ Lizcano Fernández, Francisco (May–August 2005). "Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI" (PDF). Convergencia (in Spanish). 38. Mexico: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Centro de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades: 185–232, table on p. 218. ISSN 1405-1435. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 September 2008.
  14. ^ "Composição étnica do Brasil".
  15. ^ "INDEC: Encuesta Complementaria de Pueblos Indígenas (ECPI) 2004–2005". Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  16. ^ Indigenous identification was treated in a complex way in the 2001 Census, which collected data on self-identification, capacity to speak an indigenous language, and learning an indigenous language as a child. CEPAL, "Los pueblos indígenas de Bolivia: diagnóstico sociodemográfico a partir del censo del 2001 Archived 30 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine," 2005, p. 32
  17. ^ CEPAL, "Los pueblos indígenas de Bolivia: diagnóstico sociodemográfico a partir del censo del 2001 Archived 30 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine," 2005, p. 42
  18. ^ Fineberg, Gail. "'500 Years of Brazil's Discovery'". Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  19. ^ "Brazil urged to protect Indians". BBC News. 30 March 2005. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  20. ^ Colitt, Raymond (17 January 2007). "Brazil sees traces of more isolated Amazon tribes". Reuters. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  21. ^ "El gradiente sociogenético chileno y sus implicaciones ético-sociales". 15 June 2000. Archived from the original on 18 August 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  22. ^ DANE 2005 national census
  23. ^ "Health equity and ethnic minorities in emergency situations", Pier Paolo Balladelli, José Milton Guzmán, Marcelo Korc, Paula Moreno, Gabriel Rivera, The Commission on Social Health Determinants, Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization, Bogotá, Colombia, 2007
  24. ^ Dean, Bartholomew 2009 Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia, Gainesville: University Press of Florida ISBN 978-0-8130-3378-5,
  25. ^ Van Cott (2003), "Andean Indigenous Movements and Constitutional Transformation: Venezuela in Comparative Perspective", Latin American Perspectives 30(1), p52