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:
- Examine their own backgrounds and biases.
- Make a commitment to dig deeper into the data.
- Recognize that the research process itself affects communities and that researchers have a role in ensuring research benefits communities.
- Engage communities as partners in research and give them credit.
- 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