Project description

Understanding the changes in the pattern and intensity of demographic growth as well as its consequences is crucial for dealing with important questions faced by different generations across history.
In Brazil, a country that has struggled to achieve economic development and currently faces the challenge of reforming a generous and unsustainable pension system, any effort to shed light on these topics in an attractive and accessible language can represent a huge contribution to society, by helping the population to make difficult decisions in an informed way.
This was what this project aimed to achieve and, based on the engagement of the audience we have recorded since its publication, it seems to be meeting its objective.
Through a thorough process of data gathering from a large variety of respected sources, we put together a collection of charts and tables that show how population growth has changed over the past decades, how it is likely to be shaped in the future and how Brazil fits in this context. These images are supported by a didactical text that was published both online and in the printed edition.
We bring to the public important facts such as the enormous likelihood that, by the end of this century, Brazil will lose its current position among the ten most populous countries in the world, as it will be overtaken by several African nations.
After grabbing our readers’ attention, with this information, we move on to tell them a bit of the history of global population growth over the past decades and present important concepts such as demographic dividend. We show how the baby boom-led population growth has been replaced by a new trend of elderly-led population growth, as fertility decreases and longevity increases in most of the world.
The report explains how Africa is the main exception of this trend due to persistent high fertility rates and brings data that help to explain this divergent path, such as the still large gender education gaps in many countries of the region.
We show how fears related to the past high rates of population growth in Asia were overcome by factors such as a huge expansion in food production, but also highlight challenges, such as the slowest than expected deceleration in African fertility and poverty rates, on one hand, and the difficulties created by fasted than expected deceleration in fertility in other parts of the world, on the other hand.
We then approximate these complex and pressing global issues to the Brazilian reality. Combining data from a set of different sources, we show how life expectancy at the age of 60 in Brazil has become close to that of many nations, including rich ones, while the average age of retirement in the country remains comparatively low. This helps readers to better understand the demographic dynamics behind the need for pension reform, which represents one of the most important debate that currently takes place in Brazil.

What makes this project innovative?

The innovation of this project was to combine a thorough exercise of public data gathering with traditional methods of journalistic investigation (such as extensive reading of research and interviews with leading specialists) to produce a didactical and attractive report that seems to have become an evergreen content. The resulting report has the characteristics of good professional journalism (relevant information, presented in a simple, clear, attractive and didactic way) and the depth more typical of academic work. It delivers informative and detailed data and analyses that help readers to make sense of the demographic changes that are behind some of the most important debates of actuality both in Brazil and in the world, such as pension reform, poverty and immigration. The fact that this report is proving to be of high public interest confirms its capacity to survive As a result, it is proving to be of high public interest. The whole project was produced during a month of exclusive work with no extra budget.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

The engagement of the audience with this project indicates that it has become an important source of consultation. The content has been read by 37,287 unique viewers since its publication in July 2018. It had 44,195 page views in the month that it was published. This number, then, gradually declined to 2,122 PVs in the second month, 1,447 in the third month and, so forth, until achieving a low point of 471 PVs in December 2018. However, since December, audience has picked up again, reaching 1,767 PVs in March 2019, which is a clear indication that the content remains of public interest. The fact that Brazil has started to discuss a pension reform recently, probably, explains why audience has increased again recently. Another sign that this project remains relevant is the fact that over 90% of its visualizations have resulted from searches originated in Google. Other statistics are the following: the project generated 1,200 engagements in Facebook (364 shares, 238 comments and 631 reactions). Readers that view this page have remained on it for an average of 3 minutes and 27 seconds. The source of the above-mentioned data of engagements in Facebook is SharedCount and the source of audience is Google Analytics.

Source and methodology

We gathered and combined data from a large number of respected sources, which included: The United Nations; The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); The World Bank; Barro, Robert and Jong-Wha Lee, 2013, “A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950-2010”; Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE, Brazil’s official statistics institute); The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); The International Labor Organization. We used Google spreadsheets to organize and analyze all the numbers and information. Our he charts and tables were designed with the objective to visually synthesize the vast amount of data, so readers could make sense of the information easily without spending too much time.

Technologies Used

We used RawGraphs platform (RawGraphs platform ( to project the first chart (which shows how the composition of the world’s ten most populous countries has changed over time). In the world map that synthesizes the main trends in population growth, continents were “deformed” and scaled to match the dataset proportionally. This was created using Tilegrams. ( Other charts and tables were designed through Adobe Illustrator CC and Tableau Public. We used Google spreadsheets to store and analyse all the data as well as to share it among the team.

Project members

Gustavo Queirolo, Adriana Caccese de Mattos, Luciana Coelho



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