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Urban segregation and homicides in Brazil

Rio city view

Salvador, Brasil, May 17, 2021

A recent publication of the SALUBRAL Project (Salud Urbana en America Latina) highlighted the effects of income segregation on homicides in large Brazilian cities. Segregation refers to the way in which different groups are located in the space based on their socioeconomic status, which can be measured by education, race, age, and/or income level, among others.

As expected, the results showed that income segregation has a strong impact on the number of homicides. Even after inserting the entire set of variables, we found that segregation can increase the number of homicides in large Brazilian cities by up to 50%.

The research used homicide data from 2010 in 152 Brazilian cities that are included in the SALUBRAL project. In addition, the income-based dissimilarity index at the census tract level was calculated using the last demographic census. This indicator ranges from 0 to 1 (or 0% to 100%) and allows us to have a spatial view of residential segregation within a city. Thus, we can interpret the magnitude of the index as the percentage of low-income families that would need to “move” in the city to make it more homogeneous in terms of integration between minority and majority groups. It also tells us how far the poorest are from the city's middle income.

Other socioeconomic indicators were used, such as the Gini index, GDP per capita, education, unemployment, poverty rate and overcrowding in households. This is because we assume that the socioeconomic context in which individuals or families are inserted contributes to the increase or decrease in the effects of segregation on homicides and in a broader field, on the different types of violence.

Brazil urgently needs social and economic policies aimed at reducing inequalities and reducing violence across the country and, especially, in large urban centers. These problems need to be seen in the context of public health, as they impact the health of populations, the health system, and cause social trauma, among other impacts. This research shows that policies aimed at reducing income segregation and promoting inclusive social conditions are beneficial for reducing the number of homicides in Brazil.

Read the study

For more information, contact J. Firmino de Sousa Filho at