Podcast BWE – EconomistAs with Joana Monteiro: Violence, education and making the difference

In this new episode of Brazilian Women in Economics’s Podcast, Paula Pereda and Laura Karpuska interview Joana Monteiro. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from UFRJ and is a master and PhD in economics from PUC-Rio. Joana Monteiro is a Professor at FGV-EBAPE and a coordinator at the Center for Science Applied to Public Security at FGV. Besides, she was previously Director-President in the Institute for Public Security and coordinator at the research center within the Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office.


Joana tells us it was during her Doctorate that she started to research within the public security thematic area. In one of her studies for her Doctorate thesis she measured the impact of safety in education through the disque-denúncia (a public telephone line for crime reporting) data. She explains her personal motivation for studying this theme: because was raised close to a drug faction-controlled area in Rio de Janeiro, Joana knew that the spikes in violence occurred during drug faction territorial disputes or during police incursions, exogenous events to the studied education variables. Joana shows that the performance of students living in favelas controlled by the organized crime falls on math tests during years when the area is under dispute. Some of the aspects related to this underperformance are more time with schools closed, principal turnover, and more teachers asking for sick leave.


Also, Joana talked about her experience in the Institute for Public Security, and how this experience brought her an institutional knowledge that impacted her in the way she looks at the data and inspired her new questions. She says that this profounder institutional knowledge is important for the proposition of new ideas, mechanism design, and policy implementation. Furthermore, Joana answers that one of the most important factors when combining the interests of academics and public administrators is to have a good communication, aligning the language and the objects between the two parts.


Beyond that, Joana tells us about her study on crime concentration within the seven most populated cities in the Rio de Janeiro state. She explains that the international literature has evidence that a small number of micro-locations (street segments referring to a block) concentrate a disproportional amount of crime activity, such that 50% of crime events are typically situated between 4% and 6% of the street segments. Joana’s work showed that, for the studied cities in the Rio de Janeiro state, this “law of concentration” was kept. This surprised some people that were previously skeptical that findings from external evidence could be applied to the reality of Rio de Janeiro.


At last, Joana gives a message to the young female economists: seek an effective impact of your action, even if it involves route revisions.