Brazil lowers murder rate, but racial disparity remains massive

. Aug 28, 2020
Brazil lowers murder rate, but racial disparity remains massive Anti-racist march in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Jorge Hely Veiga/Shutterstock

Almost 60,000 people were murdered in Brazil in 2018, according to the latest Violence Atlas study released this week, one of the broadest and most reputable public security surveys in the country. While a shocking absolute total, this points to a 12 percent fall in homicides between 2017 and 2018 — the sharpest drop in at least ten years. Once again, however, the study exposed the huge racial bias in Brazilian violence: 628,595 people have been murdered in the country between 2008 and 2018 — the vast majority of murder victims were black or multiracial.

</p> <p>In 2018, for instance, three out of four Brazilians killed were black or multiracial, a rate that was lower in 2008. These populations are now more likely to be murdered than they were 12 years ago, with the opposite trend seen for the rest of society.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/3599270"><script src=""></script></div> <p>“This reduction [in murders] is related to three factors: demographic changes and an aging population help reduce the homicide rate, the disarmament statute, and the dissemination of public security policies in the states”, said Daniel Cerqueira, one of the Violence Atlas researchers.</p> <p>Mr. Cerqueira mentions the north-eastern state of Paraíba as a positive example, having seen falling <a href="">murder rates</a> for nine consecutive years. Meanwhile, he showed concerns about border states Roraima and Amapá, and is skeptical about the very low numbers declared by the state of São Paulo.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/3599272"><script src=""></script></div> <h2>Murder rate divided by racial lines</h2> <p>As explained above, black and multiracial Brazilians are far more likely to be murdered than the rest of the population — 2.7 times more likely, in fact. However, in some violence hotspots, this risk grows much higher. In the state of Alagoas, homicide victims are 17 times more likely to be black or multiracial.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The numbers are a good reflection of Brazil&#8217;s everyday racism. We also notice that violence prevention policies have only managed to reduce the death of non-black people. When segmented between black and non-black people, the data is as if they are from different countries, such is the disparity,” says researcher Samira Bueno.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/3599273"><script src=""></script></div> <h2>Gun policies shoulder blame</h2> <p>According to the Violence Atlas, the most common age for murder victims is 21, with over half of homicides involving people between 15 and 29 years old. Most deaths occur between 6pm and midnight, while 71 percent of murders are caused by firearms.&nbsp;</p> <p>The latter is of particular concern for researchers from the Brazilian Public Security Forum and Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea), the institutions that collaborate to produce the Violence Atlas. The tendency is that <a href="">Brazil&#8217;s firearm legislation</a> will be loosened further under President Jair Bolsonaro, who has eased rules for obtaining permits and purchasing ammunition.</p> <p>“The federal government&#8217;s arms policy will cost many lives. Throughout academia, there is practically a consensus that more guns mean more crime. Since 2019, there has been an incentive to increase firearms and ammunition, which will have a very negative impact on homicide rates,” says Mr. Cerqueira.

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José Roberto Castro

José Roberto covers politics and economics and is finishing a Master's Degree in Media and Globalization. Previously, he worked at Nexo Jornal and O Estado de S. Paulo.

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