Racial Democracy and Black Victimization in Brazil

AuthorLeonardo C. B. Cardoso,Daniel R. C. Cerqueira,Danilo S. C. Coelho,Bruno Truzzi,Viviani S. Lirio
Date01 February 2022
Published date01 February 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(1) 13 –33
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862211038448
Racial Democracy and Black
Victimization in Brazil
Bruno Truzzi1, Viviani S. Lirio2,
Daniel R. C. Cerqueira3, Danilo S. C. Coelho3,
and Leonardo C. B. Cardoso2
The main objective of this study is to quantify racial victimization differential between
Blacks and Whites in Brazil, focusing on homicides and physical assaults. Combining
socioeconomic data from the Brazilian Household Survey with data from the Mortality
Information System, we apply the Oaxaca–Blinder decomposition to isolate the
racial discrimination component from the social indicators correlated with homicides
and physical assaults. Findings indicate that only part of the victimization differential
between Blacks and Whites is explained by structural attributes. A significant portion
of this differential (at least 40%) for both homicides and physical assaults persists as
evidence of racial discrimination. In addition, both for homicides and physical assaults, a
more discriminatory scenario is observed in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil,
regions historically characterized by higher social inequalities and violent mortality.
victimization, homicide, physical assault, racial discrimination, probability
Violence is an endemic problem in Brazil. In 2018, Brazil lost approximately
57,956 lives due to homicides, representing a rate of 27.8 deaths per 100,000 popu-
lation. In addition, between 2008 and 2018, the homicide rate grew by approxi-
mately 14.4% in the country (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada–Fórum
1University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil
2Federal University of Viçosa, Viçosa, MG, Brazil
3Institute for Applied Economic Research, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Corresponding Author:
Bruno Truzzi, Institute of Economics, University of Campinas, 353 Pitágoras Street, Barão Geraldo,
Campinas, São Paulo, 13083-857, Brazil.
Email: btruzzi13@gmail.com
1038448CCJXXX10.1177/10439862211038448Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeTruzzi et al.
14 Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 38(1)
Brasileiro de Segurança Pública [IPEA-FBSP], 2020). Another face of the violent
scene in the country, about 2.5 million people suffered some aggression in 2009
(Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística [IBGE], 2010). This conflicting sce-
nario makes Brazil one of the countries with the highest homicide rates in the world
(IPEA-FBSP, 2018) and, therefore, a relevant case for the international literature on
the subject.
Victims of violence against physical integrity (homicides and physical assaults)
have a very specific profile in Brazil. It is concentrated in the male population, espe-
cially in young individuals, with lower income and education levels, and with Black1
ethnic-racial identity (IBGE, 2010; IPEA-FBSP, 2018, 2020). In 2018, the homicide
rate for Blacks (37.8 homicides per 100,000 Black inhabitants) exceeded 2.7 times the
homicide rate of non-Blacks (13.9 homicides per 100,000 non-Black inhabitants).
Between 2008 and 2018, the homicide rate for Blacks increased by 11.5%, whereas the
rate for non-Blacks decreased by 12.9% (IPEA-FBSP, 2020). In addition, the North
and Northeast regions concentrate the highest homicide rates for Blacks in Brazil
(IPEA-FBSP, 2020; Waiselfisz, 2016). Physical assault is 38% more frequent among
Blacks than among Whites (IBGE, 2010). Therefore, all these numbers point in the
same direction: violence is an endemic problem in Brazil and it is an even greater
problem for the Black population.
This evidence supports the argument against a nation founded on principles of a
racial democracy in Brazil, as postulated by Freyre (1933, 1936). Since then, many
Brazilian scholars have rejected this concept (Adorno, 1996; Hasenbalg, 1979; Valle
Silva, 1980; Vargas, 2004). The main objective of this study is to identify and quan-
tify the racial victimization differential between Blacks and Whites in Brazil. To
achieve this goal, we combine data from the 2009 Brazilian Household Survey
(PNAD/IBGE) with the data from the Mortality Information System (SIM/MS) for
the same period, based on Cerqueira and Coelho (2015). Then, we apply the Oaxaca–
Blinder decomposition methodology for nonlinear models, isolating the racial dis-
crimination component from the characteristics and social indicators correlated with
homicides and physical assaults.
This study contributes to the criminological literature on violence and racial
discrimination in three aspects. First, we build on the study done by Phillips (2002),
who was the first to apply the Oaxaca decomposition for linear models to the racial
homicide differential. Here, we propose the Oaxaca–Blinder decomposition for
nonlinear models. Second, we use the database merger between the SIM/MS homi-
cide microdata and socioeconomic information from the Brazilian Census proposed
by Cerqueira and Coelho (2015) for a new problem: the joint analysis of homicides
and physical assaults. Third, our approach allows us to identify the contribution of
the individual, socioeconomic, and location characteristics to the racial victimiza-
tion differential in Brazil, both at the national and regional levels.
The following section explores the theoretical and empirical literature required to
support our analysis. The third section presents the methodology. Results, discussions,
and conclusions are provided in the last two sections.

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