Over the past few years, a heightened awareness of the importance of racial equity and justice has permeated the political conversation. American institutions, businesses, and communities are taking a closer look at their roles in this context. Increasingly, policymakers are applying an equity lens to their decision-making processes. Evidence-based research has become a prevailing tool in providing state leaders with the data to evaluate programs and policies and to best allocate resources to the most efficient policy strategies. However, it is becoming increasingly vital to take into context the sources from which the data derives, how it is being collected and analyzed, and which populations have access to the research. This emerging field of data equity is growing in importance and going to be a focus of our work at the New Jersey Policy Lab.
“The term ‘data equity’ … refers to the consideration, through an equity lens, of the ways in which data is collected, analyzed, interpreted, and distributed” (Lee-Ibarra, 2021). It encourages further inspection into potential racial bias of research instruments, publication’s role in the reinforcement of stereotypes, and marginalized communities’ ability to control and access their own data. It also cautions against data misuse and inaccurately broad generalization. Data equity also considers issues regarding power and privilege between researchers and their targeted populations and concerns that harmful decisions might be justified through data.
The Urban Institute, a non-profit research organization, suggests best practices for examining research through an equitable lens (Gaddy & Scott, 2020). By looking at each step in the data life cycle – from data collection to its disposal – the Urban Institute identifies data equity methods that promote the principles outlined by the Belmont Report (1978): beneficence, respect for persons, and justice.