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The People


South America's population more than doubled between 1960 and 2000. About one-half of the continent's people live in Brazil. Six other countries claim nearly 45 percent of the remaining population: Colombia (11.5 percent), Argentina (10.7 percent), Peru (7.8 percent), Venezuela (6.8 percent), Chile (4.4 percent), and Ecuador (3.7 percent). Average population growth rates approached 2.4 percent per year between 1965 and 1990, although Argentina and Uruguay have grown more slowly, as, to a lesser extent, have Chile and Bolivia. The growth in population is due largely to natural increase, the birth rate being 18 per 1,000 people and the death rate 6 per 1,000 in 2005. In many areas death rates have been declining substantially for decades, whereas high birth rates only recently have shown a downward tendency. The estimated number of people under the age of 15 in 2006 was 27 percent, while the median age was 28.1 years in 2008.

Natural increase and migration from provincial areas have caused urban populations to grow by up to 4 percent a year. In Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, the rate of urban growth has slowed, but in the tropical countries, cities are growing with great rapidity. In the most urbanized of the larger countries—Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela—at least 80 percent of the population lives in urban centers; in the least urbanized—Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay—less than 65 percent of the population is classified as urban.

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