BU Center for Antiracist Research Releases New Report on the State of Racial and Ethnic Data Collection and Reporting

Boston, MA – June 22, 2022 – At 9 am ET, the BU Center for Antiracist Research (the “Center”) released a policy report that takes an in-depth look at the state of racial and ethnic data collection and reporting in the U.S. The report, “Toward Evidence-Based Antiracist Policymaking: Problems and Proposals for Better Racial Data Collection and Reporting,”  emphasizes the need for a robust and standardized system of racial data collection and reporting and offers policy recommendations toward that end. 

As detailed in the report, existing race and ethnicity data collection efforts are riddled with gaps and errors, including missing and incomplete data, insufficiently disaggregated data, lack of meaningful longitudinal data, infrequently updated data, non-standardized methodologies, and other problems. These issues make it more difficult to understand where and how racism manifests, which hampers the creation of evidence-based, antiracist policy responses. 

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, the Center’s Founding Director, explains why the Center undertook this report: “Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic exposed that racism is a public health crisis, but the pandemic has also revealed the gaps in reporting by race and ethnicity at the county, state, and federal levels. We must standardize racial data collection across the United States, as this groundbreaking report shows. This standardization is essential to seeing and eliminating racial disparities.”

The report draws on the experiences of two teams of researchers that collected racial and ethnic data between March 2020 and August 2021: The COVID Racial Data Tracker (CRDT) and the Racial Data Tracker (RDT). The CRDT, a collaboration between The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project and the Center, was the first public database containing racial demographic data about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the U.S. The RDT, a Center initiative that is currently in development, has begun collecting racial and ethnic data in several other policy areas, including houselessness, criminal arrests, and police violence. The CRDT and RDT teams’ experiences demonstrate the current challenges of obtaining racial and ethnic data across different jurisdictions, levels of government, and policy areas. The report offers critical insight regarding how to reform racial and ethnic data collection and reporting practices to better track experiences of racism in the U.S.

“Tracking data is not the only way to do this work, but data is a powerful tool that can reveal many effects of racism, including through the study of racial and ethnic disparities in access to resources and exposure to harms. Which is why it is so important to start with good data,” explains Neda Khoshkhoo, lead author of the report and Associate Director of Policy at the Center.

Professor Jasmine Gonzales Rose, one of the co-authors, shares her enthusiasm about the report’s release. She explains, “The collection of racial demographic data is essential to track and respond to racism in our society – without racial data there is an erasure of racial disparities. We simply need racial data to root out racial injustice. This Report is a call for action and outlines the need and priorities for a standardized, nation-wide method of collecting and reporting data by race and ethnicity.”