Soy occupies the largest area of agricultural land in Brazil, spreading from southern states to the Amazon region. Soy is also the most important agricultural commodity among Brazilian exports affecting food security and land use nationally and internationally. Here we pose the question of whether soy expansion affects only economic growth or whether it also boosts socioeconomic development, fostering education and health improvements in Brazilian municipalities where it is planted. To achieve this objective, we divided more than 5000 municipalities into two groups: those with >300 ha of soy (soy municipalities) and those with <300 ha of soy (non-soy municipalities). We compared the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Gini coefficient for income for these two groups of municipalities in 1991, 2000, and 2010. We made such comparison at the municipality level for the whole country, but we also grouped the municipalities by major geographical regions and states. We found that the HDI was higher in soy municipalities, especially in the agricultural frontier. That effect was not so clear in more consolidated agricultural regions of the country. Soy municipalities also had a higher Gini coefficient for income than non-soy municipalities. We concluded that soy could be considered a precursor of socioeconomic development under certain conditions; however, it also tends to be associated with an increase in income inequality, especially in the agricultural frontier.
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