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Research

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

Download State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2014 Download State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2013 Defining Implicit Bias Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.  Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection. The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.  These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages.  In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations. A Few Key Characteristics of Implicit Biases Implicit biases are pervasive .  Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges. Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs .  They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other. The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse. We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup , though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup. Implicit biases are malleable .  Our brains are incredibly complex, and the implicit associations that we have formed can be gradually unlearned through a ...

  • 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...