Four Compelling Reasons to Use Racial Equity Impact Assessments for Policy Decisions

Posted August 31, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog fourcompellingreasons 2016

Tools for Thought: Using Racial Equi­ty Impact Assess­ments for Effec­tive Pol­i­cy­mak­ing, the third install­ment of the Race for Results case study series, high­lights the use and effec­tive­ness of Racial Equi­ty Impact Assess­ment (REIA) tools, and gives lead­ers and advo­cates a tan­gi­ble mech­a­nism to craft race-con­scious leg­is­la­tion and policies.

REIA tools are instru­ments that use data about race to project the impact of deci­sions on dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions. They are designed to help deci­sion-mak­ers under­stand the unique per­spec­tives and needs of var­i­ous pop­u­la­tions in order to find solu­tions that are ben­e­fi­cial for all.

The city of Seat­tle used REIA tools to explore the ques­tion of street­light out­ages in com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, and sub­se­quent­ly redesigned its entire street­light replace­ment sys­tem to bet­ter serve these com­mu­ni­ties and save mon­ey in the process. In Min­neapo­lis, the school board used an REIA tool to deter­mine the poten­tial impact of var­i­ous restruc­tur­ing plans, and learned that some would have unin­tend­ed — yet dire — con­se­quences on Soma­li and Native Amer­i­can neighborhoods.

When deci­sion mak­ers use racial equi­ty impact assess­ments to inform their poli­cies, they take advan­tage of four dis­tinct benefits:

  • An REIA tool helps keep the focus of the deci­sion on data and facts, rather than assump­tions or ingrained beliefs. For exam­ple, a city coun­cil­woman may assume that a com­mu­ni­ty of col­or would sup­port the clos­ing of a dilap­i­dat­ed com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter in exchange for a brand-new build­ing less than a mile away, but in real­i­ty the com­mu­ni­ty may pre­fer ren­o­va­tion rather than a move. 
  • REIA tools pro­vide a sys­tem­at­ic way to engage the opin­ions and voic­es of those who will be affect­ed by the deci­sion, increas­ing under­stand­ing and buy-in for the new pol­i­cy. The coun­cil­woman could use the ques­tions incor­po­rat­ed in an REIA tool to engage in con­ver­sa­tions with com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers or res­i­dents through sur­veys, a meet­ing, or through one-on-one conversations.
  • REIA tools can shed light on the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of pol­i­cy deci­sions before those deci­sions are made. Through the REIA tool the coun­cil­woman might learn that those with­in the affect­ed com­mu­ni­ty would not have ade­quate trans­porta­tion to the pro­posed com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter site.
  • REIA tools can pro­vide a wider range of options for pol­i­cy choic­es — options that may nev­er have emerged oth­er­wise. The coun­cil­woman now can con­sid­er trans­porta­tion as part of the deci­sion and include ren­o­vat­ing the exist­ing site, build­ing a new cen­ter clos­er to the com­mu­ni­ty, incor­po­rat­ing a trans­porta­tion plan or oth­er cre­ative solutions.

In many cas­es, pre­vent­ing inequity is more cost effec­tive than repair­ing an inequitable sys­tem. Qual­i­ty ear­ly learn­ing for a low-income child is much more cost effec­tive than pro­vid­ing reme­di­a­tion ser­vices once that child drops out of high school.

But, per­haps, more impor­tant­ly, using an REIA tool to inform pol­i­cy deci­sions means that pol­i­cy­mak­ers and gov­ern­ment employ­ees are embrac­ing a com­mon­ly held val­ue of racial equi­ty. When that val­ue is man­i­fest, qual­i­ty of life improves for everyone.

Read or down­load Tools for Thought

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