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The Kirwan Institute strives to provide innovative, compelling and strategic research to both academic audiences and the broader community. Much of the Institute’s research is applied and policy oriented, providing informed direction and assistance to social justice advocates, communities, funders and policy makers. The following provides information on our core research areas and provides a comprehensive index of recent Institute projects.

Barriers to Opportunity

Structural Racialization

Download or View Position Paper  A Systems Approach to Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Racial Inequity Racial inequity can persist without racist intent The word “racism” is commonly understood to refer to instances in which one individual intentionally or unintentionally targets others for negative treatment because of their skin color or other group-based physical characteristics. Research conducted by the Kirwan Institute strongly suggests that this individual-centered view of racism is too limited. If we look at our society as a complex system of organizations, institutions, individuals, processes, and policies, we can see how many factors interact to create and perpetuate social/economic/political arrangements that are harmful to people of color and to our society as a whole. Housing, education, and health are just a few examples of how material and symbolic advantages and disadvantages are still often distributed along racial lines. For example, think about our suburbs. The federal government accelerated migration to the suburbs by subsidizing home mortgages through the National Housing Act of 1934. But through the 1950s, the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) underwriting manuals expressly warned that Blacks were considered “adverse influences” on property values. The agency instructed its personnel not to insure mortgages on homes unless they were in “racially homogenous” White neighborhoods. Under these guidelines, the FHA actually refused to lend money to – or underwrite loans for – Whites if they moved to areas where people of color lived. Private lenders adopted similar policies, and this system became part of the “free market.” The U.S. property appraisal system created in the 1930s tied property value and eligibility for government loans to race. Thus, all-White neighborhoods received the government’s highest property value ratings and White people were ...

Understanding Implicit Bias

  • Opportunity Communities Model

    Opportunity Communities - identifies, builds understanding, and eliminates racialized structural barriers to opportunity in critical domains including equitable and sustainable communities, criminal justice, education, and health and health care to build opportunity-rich neighborhoods. Learn More...

  • What is Opportunity Mapping?

    Opportunity mapping is a research tool used to understand the dynamics of “opportunity” within metropolitan areas. The purpose of opportunity mapping is to illustrate where opportunity rich communities exist (and assess who has access to these communities) and to understand what needs to be remedied in opportunity poor communities. Learn More...

  • Talking and Thinking About Race

    Research suggests that even when we are not talking about race, we are thinking about it. This notion is easy to understand when we consider how visible race has been in the social, economic, and political history of the United States. Race has been – and continues to be – a strong force in determining how opportunity is distributed in our society. Learn More...

  • Social Determinants of Health

    The social determinants of health approach is distinguished by a broad focus on the economic, social, political, and psychological determinants of population health. Learn More...