Addressing Structural Racism in Public Policy Research

Addressing Structural Racism in Public Policy Research

Jun 19, 2020
On the Evidence Guests Kilolo Kijakazi and Cleo Jacobs Johnson

In this episode of On the Evidence, the Urban Institute’s Kilolo Kijakazi talks with Mathematica’s Cleo Jacobs Johnson about what policy research organizations can do to make progress on addressing structural racism in policy research.

In early 2019, the Urban Institute published a brief about addressing structural racism through research and policy analysis. The paper summarizes lessons, promising practices, and recommendations previously discussed in a roundtable with 23 research groups. At the time of publication, the paper’s authors did not know that communities across the country would soon be organizing protests against structural racism in the wake of a recent string of high-profile incidents in which people of color were killed by law enforcement, occurring during a pandemic that disproportionately harms Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.

Nevertheless, the brief might find new readers in the policy research field who—amid heightened awareness brought about by recent acts of social injustice—have committed to addressing structural racism and are looking for concrete steps they can take. The paper discusses the relationship between institutional choices made by organizations that conduct public policy research and the research these organizations produce.

The guests for this episode are Kilolo Kijakazi and Cleo Jacobs Johnson.

Kijakazi coauthored the Urban Institute brief and works with her organization to help it become more diverse in its staffing, the content of its work, and the audience it reaches. Kijakazi also conducts research and policy analysis on structural racism, the racial wealth gap, and economic security—including retirement security.

Jacobs Johnson, a senior researcher at Mathematica who specializes in education, early childhood, and family support, served as Mathematica’s acting chief diversity officer for about a year.

Listen to the full episode below.

A version of the full episode with closed captioning is also available on Mathematica’s YouTube channel here.

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Show notes

Find the Urban Institute brief, “Confronting Structural Racism in Research and Policy Analysis,” here.

The guests reference several papers about treating race as a dummy variable. Find them here, here, and here.

Kijakazi’s blog, “COVID-19 Racial Health Disparities Highlight Why We Need to Address Structural Racism,” is available here.

Kijakazi also co-authored a brief last year about what would it take to overcome the damaging effects of structural racism and ensure a more equitable future. Find it here.

To learn more about Mathematica’s ongoing efforts to address structural racism, including a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative that launched in 2015, read a blog by Jacobs Johnson from December 2019 and an earlier blog by Mathematica Chief Executive Officer Paul Decker.

About the Author

J.B. Wogan

J.B. Wogan

Senior Strategic Communications Specialist
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