The charts that show Brazil’s biggest problem is violence

Brazil’s most recent numbers on violence are staggering: every three weeks, there are more killings in Brazil than in terror attacks everywhere else in the world in 2017.

Per week 1,136 people are murdered in Brazil, according to a report released on Monday 6th. The figures are called a “daily tragedy” by the authors, which compared the stats with the 3,314 deaths by all terror attacks worldwide until May this year.

The soaring levels of violence places Brazil as one of the most violent countries in the world – the nation’s murder rate is five times higher than the global average . In some states, the rate is ten times above that.   Brazil murder map

Who suffer the most?

The victims are the poorest: young black men with few years of education, living in a poverty trap that condemns them to have no better prospects than their parents did.

According to the report, almost half of the 59,080 killings in Brazil in 2015 were against those aged between 15-29.

When split by colour, the figures show how race impact the probability of you living or dying in Brazil: while the murder rate among non-black youths decreased over time (-12.2%), killings among black youths soared (+18.2%).

“The typical kind of victims remains the same: men, young, black and with low levels of education. However, in the last decade, the bias of violence against black youths has increased further,” noted in the report Daniel Ricardo de Castro Cerqueira, a researcher at the think-tank Ipea, which compiled the numbers.

.Murder rate gap

The race bias is also an unfavorable element for black women: while killings of non-black females decreased 7.4% between 2005 and 2015, murders against black women jumped by over a fifth.

“There are racial differences,” said Cerqueira about the findings.

Female killings

Why such violence?

There is a strong correlation between violence and low levels of education and social equality, the report says.

While Brazil’s most peaceful city, Jaraguá do Sul, has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0,803 – similar to Portugal’s 0.830 – the country’s most violent city, Altamira, has a 0,665 HDI – similar to Botswana’s 0.698.

Jaraguá do Sul is located in one of Brazil’s most developed state, Santa Catarina, while Altamira is placed at one of the nations’ most uneducated one, Pará, where poverty, poor sanitarian conditions and low levels of schooling damage future prospects and breed violence.

Number of killings in Brazil over a decade

Brazil’s “national tragedy“, as the researchers phrase it, harms not only Brazilian’s right to life but also the country’s economic prospects. Cerqueira estimates that 1.5% of Brazil’s USD 1.77 trillion GDP is lost to violence.

“Premature deaths represent in themselves a cost of social welfare as they reduce the life expectancy and therefore the ability of individuals to produce and to consume,” wrote Cerqueira in a recent study about the cost of violence among youths in Brazil.

“It is undoubtedly a great human tragedy, with immeasurable implications,” he adds.

 

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The ungovernable coalition of Dilma Rousseff

Brazil’s political system is an odd one: presidents in Brazil will always need to form coalitions to govern, even when their party has the majority of the National Congress.

In a country with 32 parties – 28 of them with seats in Congress – that is usually a tough job. And the list is likely to grow: at the moment the Superior Electoral Court is analysing requests from 21 new parties.

The political fragmentation can be seen in the number of parties at the National Congress. This is how the Chamber of Deputies is divided in Brazil:

ChamberOfDeputies

The situation isn’t different at the Federal Senate. This is how the it is divided:

PartiesAtSenate The Brazilian system is known as a coalitional presidentialism, a term coined by Sergio Abranches in 1988. In 2015, Abranches’ definition seems as accurate as ever.

Here are the parties under the incumbent president’s coalition. Click in the picture for an interactive version of the graphic bellow:

Coalition

A rebel coalition

Dilma Rousseff’s support base total 70 per cent of the seats in the Senate and 63 per cent of all seats in the Chamber of Deputies, Brazilian lower chamber.

Still, her majority in Congress has not been preventing her from being defeated, bill after bill that her government has sent to parliament.

Her most recent defeat was this Wednesday (6), when the Speaker of the Lower Chamber, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB – Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), who is part of the largest party under Rousseff’s coalition, asked the house to approve a new law changing the maximum age for retirement of the judges at the Federal Supreme Court.

The new bill impacts the number of judges Rousseff could nominate to the Federal Supreme Court until the end of her mandate.

Before the change, the president could nominate five new judges, but now will only be able to do so if a judge steps down.

Rousseff is dealing with dissonant voices even inside her own Worker’s Party (PT). The president needs the Congress to approve a new fiscal package to stimulate the economy, but PT, a left-wing party, fears that the package, which brings austerity measures, will bring negative impact to the party.

This week, Brazil’s former president, Fernando Henrique Cardo (PSDB), from the opposition party, declared that Brazil needs a political reform.

“The Brazilian political system is bankrupted. You cannot govern with 30, 40 parties, 40 ministries. It is unfeasible. It is necessary to use this political crisis to improve the electoral system.”

An earlier version of this post stated that the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies had 22 different parties. The number has been corrected to the right one: 28 parties and the missing ones were included. 

Lies, damned lies, and statistics: why thinking critically about numbers is imperative

There is a popular sentence that says: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Well, as an MA student trying to pursue a career in data journalism I don’t entirely agree with the statement. But the phrase, popularized by the great Mark Twain, is a remind that when dealing with numbers a good dose of skepticism and critical thinking is imperative.

Recently when analysing datasets I could experience how you can create incorrect conclusions when manipulating numbers with not enough thought.

The first dataset was about HIV in the UK. After Nigel Farage’s polemic statement, I wanted to check what was the incidence of new HIV infections while patients were in the UK.

Proportion: a basic and useful concept of statistics

I downloaded a dataset from Public Health England (PHE) about the last nine years of HIV infections and care in the UK.

The dataset specifies the proportion of infections acquired while the patient were in the UK per category: men who have sex with men, heterosexual contact, drug injecting use and “others”. My goal was to find out if there was a trend in HIV infections – and if so, what it was.

I started my analysis focusing on the number of infections per category per year. Then problems appeared.

When looking at the numbers, there was a rise in the number of gay men who had been infected in the UK over the years and a sharp drop of heterosexual people who had contracted the virus while in the country.

HIVwrongchart

It seemed that more gay people were acquiring the disease in this country and less heterosexuals were being infected while being here.

That would be completely fine if not for one reason: it was not telling the whole story.

The big drop in diagnosis amongst heterosexual people was due to a sharp fall in the number of infections amongst this group. It did not mean that less heterosexual people were being infected in the UK.

In fact, the proportion of heterosexual people infected in this country has risen sharply over the past years, from 31 per cent in 2004 to 57 per cent in 2013. And despite the uptrend for gay men seen in the graphic, the proportion of cases UK-acquired had diminished.

In 2013 the proportion of total infections UK-acquired was 66% – an increase from the 48% in 2004. The proportion had increased, despite the fact that the number of infections had dropped.

The correct analysis is here.

Comparisons: getting the numbers right

Recently I have done an analysis about the homicide rate in Brazil. My goal was to check if there was any difference in the way violent crimes affect white and black people.

Again a notion of proportion, a fairly basic principle of statistics, was very necessary.

The dataset I was analyzing had the number of homicides per colour per year from 2010 to 2012 for 5565 municipalities in Brazil. I did a quick pivot table to get the homicide numbers per state and per skin colour.

PivotTableYoungCrime

The numbers were shocking in itself. More than 23,000 thousand young black people were killed in Brazil in 2013. The total number was visibly higher than the 6.806 white young people killed in the same year.

But being Brazil a country with a larger population of black people, how could I compare the two values?

I used the rate formula “fact per 100,000 population“, which is a rate used by demographers in Brazil and by the United Nations when analyzing certain stats, as crimes one.

However, dividing the total number of homicide by 100,000 people wouldn’t neutralize incorrect conclusions. The rule with rates is that, to be a true rate we must try to have only those at risk in the denominator.

There are states in Brazil, such as Bahia, Amazonas e Pará, where the black population accounts for 80 per cent of the inhabitants. In such places, crimes were likely to affect more black people simply because they were the majority.

The solution for a more accurate picture: compare the crimes against black people within the black population and compare the crimes against white people within the white population.

Such analysis made possible, for example, to see that, in the state of Santa Catarina, even though the total number of homicides against white people were three times higher than the number against black people, the homicide rate per 100,000 was still higher for black people.

TableauSantaCatarina

What I learnt from these episodes: numbers can’t be detached from the whole picture. Proportions are more important than real numbers and you may mislead your audience if you don’t present the context where your numbers are inserted.

Want to know more?
Here are some resources:

How to lie with statistics. Darrell Huff (1950, still relevant).
Basics of statistics.Jarkko Isotalo (2007).
The essential concepts of statistics. Scott Adams.   

The Deadly Reality for Young Black People in Brazil

If you are a young black citizen in Brazil, your chance to be killed is 282 per cent more if you were born white.

Depending on where you live, the chance is 10 times higher.

According to the latest data available about homicides in Brazil, 23,140 black people aged 15-29 were killed in the country in 2012. That means 82 black young people were murdered in every 100,000 black inhabitants.

The rate for young white people is equally alarming: 29 people in every 100,000 white population were killed in the country in 2012.

Both numbers are much higher than the acceptable rate of 10 cases in every 100,000 people by the World Health Organization (WHO). Above this rate, the organization considers violence to be epidemic.

HomicideEthinicityAge

Brazil crime rate is astonishingly high: 56,337 citizens were killed in the country in 2012. That means 156 people were murdered every day, a number that makes Brazil one of the most violent in the world. Young people have accounted for almost half of the victims.

The map of violence

Homicides affect young black and white people in different ways depending on where they live.

In Alagoas State, in the Northeast of Brazil, the homicide rate is of 192 cases in every 100,000 black young people. That is 10 times higher than the rate registered among the young white population. Alagoas is also the third poorest state in Brazil, and ranks 25th amongst the 27 federative units in the list of GDP per person.

In the map bellow it is possible to see what are the states with higher homicide rates. Check the interactive version for visualizing numbers and rates for each state.  

BrazilCrimeMap

The disparity in how crimes affect more dramatically black communities has led the International Annisty to create the campaign “Jovem Negro Vivo” (Young Black Alive) to fight what the organization calls “indifference” in the Brazilian society.

In the video, youths who are murdered become merely invisible.

The high rate of crimes involving black and poor communities is being analyzed by the Lower Chamber. A Commission has been installed based on the Map of Violence, a study conducted by Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, from Flacso Brasil.

Waiselfisz said about the commission:

“The majority of homicides [in Brazil] happens among relatives, neighbors and friends for trivial reasons. With the wide circulation of weapons, any conflict becomes lethal. And, most seriously, there is the institutional tolerance to blame the victim. We are unable to institutionally address violence. Rates [of  murder] are only increasing.”

The Commission has been installed in a moment that the Senate tries to change the law to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16.

Waiselfisz believes changing the law is not a solution for violence in Brazil:

“We have about 600,000 people jailed in Brazil and more killings. We never had so many prisoners and have more homicides. Changing the law isn’t effective. We have very good laws, such as the Statute of Children and Adolescents, but these laws are not applied.”