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Measuring Racial Discrimination
analysis of racial discrimination, particularly if the research goal is to compare administrative records with survey reports of discrimination events, is likely to present difficult problems. There could well be problems in obtaining access to administrative records, understanding agency reporting systems, and protecting the confidentiality of the data. Nonetheless, because administrative data are maintained for recordkeeping purposes by enforcement agencies and thereby provide a low-cost resource for research, it seems worthwhile to conduct feasibility studies to determine their potential for analytical use, alone and linked to survey data. Such use could not only add to knowledge but also help agencies design more informative records systems for their own enforcement and education programs.
Program agencies could also provide input to the federal statistical system regarding data items that would be useful to include in ongoing household cross-sectional and longitudinal data systems run by statistical agencies. Major longitudinal surveys of cohorts of individuals exist in the domains of labor market experience, education, and health. Such surveys are prime candidates to review to identify cost-effective additions or modifications of questions that would support research on discrimination. Statistical agencies can contribute to the provision of useful data for analysis of discrimination by sponsoring research, as we recommended in Chapter 10, on best practices for obtaining data on racial and ethnic classifications.
Finally, program agencies can play a valuable role in facilitating research evaluation of natural experiments consequent to policy and regulatory changes, by modifying or augmenting administrative records systems, as appropriate. With suitable data, natural experiment evaluations can compare differences in outcomes over time and between individuals affected and not affected by these changes, in ways that can illuminate the possible role of racial discrimination.
We suggest that research funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and private foundations, can best leverage their resources by addressing areas of research on racial discrimination that are less apt to be considered by program agencies. They also have a comparative advantage in supporting more basic research and data infrastructure, including support for rich longitudinal data collections.
Within-Domain and Across-Domain Cumulative Effects Studies
Research funding agencies are better positioned than program agencies to support innovative, cross-disciplinary, multimethod research on cumulative disadvantage and the roles that current and past discrimination—