Native peoples constitute a significant portion of the continent's Andean population, especially in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Paraguay. Elsewhere in South America the population is generally mestizo, although Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and S Brazil have primarily European populations. There are sizable populations of African descent in NE Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, and Colombia. Immigration since 1800 has brought European, Middle Eastern, and Asian (especially Japanese) peoples to the continent, particularly to Argentina and Brazil.
With the exception of Brazil and Ecuador, the national capitals have the largest populations and are the economic, cultural, and political centers of the countries. Since World War II, the urban population has rapidly expanded. São Paulo, Brazil, whose population is nearly 10,000,000, is the largest city of South America and one of the fastest growing cities of its size in the world. Squatter settlements have multiplied around urban areas as the poor and unskilled flock to the cities; widespread unemployment is common. Outside the cities the population density of the continent is very low, with vast portions of the interior virtually uninhabited; most of the people live within 200 mi (320 km) of the coast.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.