Step-by-Step Guide on Using Equity Principles in Social Science Research

Posted October 6, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
How to Embed a Racial and Ethnic Equity Perspective in Research is a  working paper that suggests how researchers can do more to achieve equitable outcomes.

Prac­tices that acknowl­edge and account for dif­fer­ences between cul­tures have become increas­ing­ly com­mon among social sci­ence researchers. Although this shift means that the dis­tinct voic­es of com­mu­ni­ties of col­or are more like­ly to be heard, rep­re­sen­ta­tion is not enough to coun­ter­act the inequities that have been baked into sys­tems for gen­er­a­tions. A new work­ing paper from Child Trends, pub­lished with sup­port from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, sug­gests how researchers can do more to achieve equi­table out­comes for chil­dren, fam­i­lies and communities.

How to Embed a Racial and Eth­nic Equi­ty Per­spec­tive in Research is a prac­ti­cal guide to incor­po­rat­ing equi­ty through­out the research process and to under­stand­ing how race and eth­nic­i­ty con­tribute to dis­parate results. The guide was devel­oped through inter­views with 34 researchers, fun­ders and pol­i­cy­mak­ers nation­wide with expe­ri­ence in apply­ing racial and eth­nic equi­ty prin­ci­ples to research and evaluation.

How to Embed a Racial and Eth­nic Equi­ty Per­spec­tive in Research is an impor­tant guide to help researchers under­stand the impor­tance of com­mu­ni­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion and per­spec­tives to the qual­i­ty of their work,” said Kan­tahya­nee Mur­ray, a senior research asso­ciate at Casey. These steps can help ensure that research and eval­u­a­tion pro­duce not just strong results but equi­table results.”

Although there’s no uni­ver­sal way to incor­po­rate an equi­ty per­spec­tive — the approach must be tai­lored to the specifics of the research project — the paper out­lines sev­er­al fun­da­men­tals that can help researchers be successful:

  1. Exam­ine their own back­grounds and biases.
  2. Make a com­mit­ment to dig deep­er into the data.
  3. Rec­og­nize that the research process itself affects com­mu­ni­ties and that researchers have a role in ensur­ing research ben­e­fits communities.
  4. Engage com­mu­ni­ties as part­ners in research and give them credit.
  5. Guard against the implied or explic­it assump­tion that white is the nor­ma­tive, stan­dard or default position.

These guide­lines, when applied to the major stages of the research process, lead to a much deep­er under­stand­ing of racial and eth­nic inequities — and help ensure that the research process does not per­pet­u­ate them.

The paper also explores how an equi­ty per­spec­tive plays out in prac­tice, offer­ing sug­ges­tions for researchers at each stage of the process:

  • Before a study begins, the researcher should assess the land­scape to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the research con­text by gath­er­ing the per­spec­tives of peo­ple affect­ed by or involved in the research. Com­mu­ni­ty stake­hold­er engage­ment will shape the research process and may uncov­er root caus­es of the issue.
  • The researcher should devel­op research ques­tions and designs that aim to advance racial and eth­nic equi­ty. To this end, researchers can involve racial­ly and eth­ni­cal­ly diverse research teams, con­struct a research design that is accept­ed by the com­mu­ni­ty, devel­op research ques­tions that tar­get root caus­es and address equi­ty when iden­ti­fy­ing data col­lec­tion meth­ods and instruments.
  • In data analy­sis, both qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive, the researcher should dis­ag­gre­gate data, explore con­nec­tions across groups, dis­cuss data trends with the appro­pri­ate con­text, beware of implic­it bias and involve the com­mu­ni­ty, where pos­si­ble, in data interpretation.
  • The researcher should devel­op a dis­sem­i­na­tion plan that includes the com­mu­ni­ty as one of the mul­ti­ple pri­ma­ry audi­ences for research find­ings, con­sid­er var­i­ous for­mats for report­ing results and pri­or­i­tize find­ings that the com­mu­ni­ty can act on and use.

Resources on Advanc­ing Equi­ty and Inclusion

Learn more about embed­ding equi­ty in evaluation

Fol­low sev­en steps to using equi­ty in social change efforts

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