You can’t fix what you can’t see
The Center for Antiracist Research calls for data standards to better confront racial inequities
One thing made clear during the COVID-19 pandemic was the lack of clarity on race and ethnicity data. For example, Black people accounted for more than 15% of COVID deaths in 2020. But that figure, already disproportionate, includes only deaths where an official logged the deceased’s race and ethnicity, a task inconsistently performed.
With few national standards on reporting race and ethnicity, researchers at the Center for Antiracist Research have found that such gaps not only hinder what we know about health disparities but also hold back our understanding of how policies on housing, education, and employment affect different communities and people.
“We must standardize racial data collection across the United States. This is essential to seeing and eliminating racial disparities.”
In June 2022, the center published a report, Toward Evidence-Based Antiracist Policymaking: Problems and Proposals for Better Racial Data Collection and Reporting, highlighting the nation’s race and ethnicity data shortcomings, in part, by detailing the center’s ongoing work to build a racial data tracker for areas including criminal arrests, houselessness, and police violence. The report offers 11 recommendations for filling in critical gaps.
The first is a call for federal leadership on the collection of racial and ethnic demographic data across areas such as health, employment, education, environment, and more. Other suggestions include financial incentives to nudge states and localities into timely and accurate data gathering and making that data publicly accessible.
“We must standardize racial data collection across the United States,” says Ibram X. Kendi, the center’s founding director and Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities. “This is essential to seeing and eliminating racial disparities.”