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Ecuador - Highlights

Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Human Development in Latin America: 1994-2004

Indigenous Peoples 1994-2004 button

Indigenous population
It is estimated that for the year 2001, 9.2% of the population belonged to a household in which either at least one member of the family self-identifies as indigenous or speaks an indigenous language. The average indigenous household has 4.8 members, compared to 4.2 for non-indigenous households, and the average age of the indigenous population is 25.5 years, compared to 27.6 years for the non-indigenous population.

Poverty in Ecuador affects mostly rural areas and indigenous households. In 1998, indigenous people were among the poorest groups in Ecuadorian society, with a poverty rate of 87% for the entire ethnic group and 96% in the rural highlands, compared to 61% for non-indigenous people. Extreme poverty is about 56% for indigenous people and 71% for indigenous people in the rural highlands, compared to 25% for non-indigenous people. (Chapter 4: Table 2).

Wage differences
Average indigenous labor earnings reach only 55% of the correspondent figure for non-indigenous workers. For both men and women, it is estimated that 74% of the labor earning gap is due to endowment differences, mostly in education (indigenous workers have on average 4.1 fewer years of schooling), and in labor insertion, as indigenous workers are concentrated in agriculture and the informal sector. The remaining 26% of the gap can be attributed to labor market discrimination.

Indigenous people between the age of 30 and 34 have, on average, only 6.9 years of formal education, compared to 9.6 years for non-indigenous people. Roughly 24% of the indigenous population reports no formal education at all, compared to 5% of the non-indigenous population. Among non-indigenous children, 18% show age-grade distortion in first grade compared to 20% among indigenous children. This 2% disparity grows to a 7% gap by the sixth grade. These results suggest that there may be important differentials in the quality of education between schools to which indigenous and non-indigenous children attend, as well as differentials in outcomes related other factors, such as the language in which the courses are taught. (Chapter 4: Figure 9 and Table 21).

Child labor
In 2001, only 57% of indigenous children aged 5 to 18 attended school and did not work, compared to 73% of non-indigenous children. Moreover, 28% of indigenous children were working, and one out of three did not go to school at all. Child labor disproportionably affects indigenous peoples, reducing human capital formation and contributing to intergenerational transmission of poverty. While child labor is more common among male children, women also leave school to help in domestic chores. Child labor earnings contribute 11.6% of indigenous families’ income and 10.5% of non-indigenous families’ income.

The portion of deliveries assisted by a professional health care provider is much lower for indigenous mothers (33%) than for non-indigenous mothers (82%). About 36% of indigenous mothers report having no prenatal checkup at all during their last pregnancy, compared to 12% of non-indigenous mothers. Indigenous women are 15% less likely to use contraceptive methods than non-indigenous women. The mortality rate of all sons and daughters born alive is 10.5% for indigenous mothers, compared to 5.1% for non-indigenous mothers (Chapter 4: Table 34). 

Chronic malnutrition affects a disproportionate larger number of indigenous children under five years old (59%) compared to non-indigenous children (26%). Indigenous families also depend more heavily on health care delivered by public health centers or sub-centers and have lower rates of health insurance coverage than non- indigenous families. (Chapter 4: Table 36).

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