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Brazil's economic boom drawing immigrant workers home

Brazilians are returning to better opportunities. Unemployment is at a historic low, and incomes are rising rapidly. In many sectors, Brazilians earn more than their U.S. counterparts.

September 02, 2011|By Vincent Bevins, Los Angeles Times

It's not just low-income workers who have been drawn home by the economy. Companies and business schools say they are luring back Brazilians who might have previously planned on working in the U.S. For one thing, the money is better. The Economist magazine found this year that executives earn more money in Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic capital, than in any other city in the world. New York came in second.

"We are seeing all kinds of Brazilians return," said Rodrigo Zeidan, professor of international economics at the Fundacao Dom Cabral, one of Brazil's top business schools. "And doing so makes perfect economic sense. Brazil has found its own internal growth engine, and incomes are rising, especially in the middle and lower-middle classes.

"I myself have recently come home from abroad, and we in Brazil are living through something that unfortunately a lot of the rich countries like the U.S. don't have at the moment. Young people tend to take it for granted that with a little hard work they can do something bigger and better than what their parents are doing."

Some cited an increasingly difficult atmosphere in the U.S. for immigrants as a factor in their decision to return home.

"I was arrested by immigration authorities in Maine in 2009 and spent a day without food, in the freezing cold," said Marcos "Beto" Lopes da Silva, 37. , who said that after his legal ordeal he spent a few months crashing with Bahia in California and struggling to find enough work before leaving the U.S. with very little to show for his year there.

He now works in a computer supply store here and makes $1,250 to $2,500 a month selling and refilling printer cartridges, much more than he made as a construction worker in the United States.

"I plan to return to the U.S., of course, but only just to pass through," he said. "You know, to go shopping."

Bevins is a special correspondent.

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