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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

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...

Current Research & Project Initiatives

Sustainable Communities Initiative

Fisher v. University of Texas
REO Initiative

Real Estate-Owned (REO) Initiative The Kirwan Institute is working with the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights to expand fair housing opportunities for low income families by advocating the rental of government-owned foreclosed properties in higher-opportunity neighborhoods.   For more information on the initiative, see   this summary  on PRRAC’s website: Cincinnati, Ohio   ( opportunity map ) Columbus, Ohio  ( opportunity map ) Cleveland, Ohio  ( opportunity map ) Seattle, Washington   ( opportunity map ) Atlanta, Georgia - Black Population Atlanta, Georgia Comprehensive Opportunity Atlanta, Georgia -  Poverty Rate Chicago, Illinois - Black Population Chicago, Illinois Comprehensive Opportunity Chicago, Illinois - Poverty Rate Los Angeles, California - Black Population  Los Angeles, California - Poverty Rate Las Vegas, Nevada - Black Population Las Vegas, Nevada - Poverty Rate Jacksonville, Florida - Black Population Jacksonville, Florida Comprehensive Opportunity Jacksonville, Florida - Poverty Rate Orlando, Florida - Black Population Orlando, Florida Comprehensive Opportunity Orlando, Florida - Poverty Rate Phoenix, Arizona Black Population Phoenix, Arizona Poverty Rate Miami, Florida - Black Population Miami, Florida Black Comprehensive Opportunity Miami, Florida - Poverty Rate Riverside, California Black Population Riverside, California Poverty Rate Riverside, California Comprehensive Opportunity West Coast Florida (Tampa and St. Petersburg) - Black Population West Coast Florida (Tampa and St. Petersburg) Comprehensive Opportunity West Coast Florida (Tampa and St. Petersburg) - Poverty Rate Legend : Homepath – Fannie Mae properties  Homesteps – Freddie Mac properties  HUD – FHA properties

Building Healthy Communities of Opportunity

Building Healthy Communities of Opportunity Health is more than health care. It not only reflects personal choices about healthy habits, or access to primary care, but is significantly impacted by where one lives. Social factors like poverty, unemployment, housing, education, and the food system collectively exert an equally important, maybe even greater, impact on health. Although access to health care services and individual behavior play important roles in determining health, one’s immediate environment and access to opportunity structures are significantly more important. Kirwan's research in this area has highlighted the importance of the spatial dynamics of health opportunity in understanding the social determinants of health and health outcomes. Description of PICO work: Kirwan partnered with PICO National Network and CCO in Kansas City, and MICAH in New Orleans, with the intention to build a common understanding of the conditions necessary for health in order to bring transformative change to the public health delivery system that is not only sustainable, but that promotes better health outcomes for all. Key to this understanding is an awareness of the causes and consequences of health inequities and their relationship to racial and ethnic disparities and hierarchies. The purpose of our study is to map where there are high concentrations of emergency room usage, the “hot spots,” in order to better understand the primary care needs of the community, the costs of using the ER system, and how to transform health care away from ER use and instead reinvest in these “hot spot” communities to build stronger, thriving and healthier families. Kirwan worked with stakeholders and organizers to develop mapping applications which assist in developing and communicating narratives on health care reform and health equity. Reports:  -  Bring Health Reform Home: Mapping Emergency Room ...

Community Development Collaborative

Community Revitalization

Community Revitalization The Kirwan Institute has worked on a number of initiatives which identify opportunities and challenges to neighborhood and community revitalization, while promoting policies that support the resurgence of these communities. The Institute promotes a model of neighborhood revitalization with the goal of improving neighborhoods while assuring the communities remain neighborhoods of choice that are accessible to all residents. Projects: West Baltimore Columbus Neighborhoods and Health Health Care That Works NYC The Institute has completed a series of maps and analysis addressing health care resources in New York City. This research focuses on the interplay between, race, class, preventative health care (such as primary care physicians and OB/GYN services) and disparate health outcomes throughout the city. Opportunity Agenda is utilizing this work in their broader advocacy efforts to assist local community activities aimed at halting hospital closures in several New York City neighborhoods. (Additional maps to be posted soon). Ohio Health Care Investment & Race The regional dynamics of opportunity are not just limited to education, housing or economic opportunities. Investment in health care is another arena where inequitable patterns of investment can be found in most metropolitan areas. This phenomenon creates additional public health problems for low income communities of color and may be expanding racial disparities in health. The Kirwan Institute is conducting research to identify disparities in spending and access to health care in major metropolitan areas. Read more. Detroit Vacant Property Initiative  The Kirwan Institute is providing research and technical assistance regarding establishing an urban land bank program for the City of Detroit alongside  MOSES , a nonprofit faith-based coalition. Detroit currently has 40,000 to 70,000 vacant properties. The land bank could bring ...

Housing Policy

Housing Policy Housing, in particular its location, is the primary mechanism for accessing opportunity in our society.  Where you live is more important than what you live in. Housing location determines the quality of local public services, such as schools, the degree of access to employment and transportation, and the degree of public safety. Currently, most affordable housing in our metropolitan regions is disconnected from opportunity. The Kirwan Institute’s housing research focuses on providing fair access to communities of opportunity through affordable housing development and fair housing policy. The Future of Fair Housing & Credit 2010-2011 Work The Housing Crisis: How did we get here, where do we go? The Subprime Lending, Foreclosure and Race Initiative   Sustainable Communities Initiative The Kirwan Institute is deeply engaged in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI).  The Institute has advised HUD on the program and is working with Sustainable Communities grantees in several regions... More   Other Projects and Resources Thompson V. HUD and Opportunity Based Fair Housing in Baltimore Florida’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program [JWR1] Gulf Coast Housing Equity Housing Need & Opportunity in Columbus, OH Learn More About Kirwan's Opportunity Mapping Projects   << Back To Opportunity Communities

Racial Equity

Racial Equity The Institute utilizes the community of opportunity model to explore the intersection between marginalization and opportunity for specific racial populations. The following are recent projects and case studies exploring the intersection of race, equity and opportunity. The State of Black Ohio Equity for Marginalized Children in Knoxville, TN Cleveland Race & Regionalism Initiative Cleveland Minority Business Development African American Male Initiative  

Race and Cognition

Race and Cognition The Kirwan Institute examines how the form and content of communications influence the way in which racialized messages are received and processed; working to create a communications strategy that illuminates our linked fate. We also examine the processes by which attitudes and ideas about race impact and mediate the relationship between race and opportunity and how these effects can be mitigated. FEATURED PROJECTS & PRESENTATION -   Rooting Intergroup Relations for Social Justice: A Curricular “Mapping” of the Field ARCHIVE -  Race In The Mind presentations     -  Race In The Mind publications   State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review Download or View the Review The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity has become increasingly mindful of how implicit racial biases shape not only individuals’ cognition and attitudes, but also their behaviors.  Indeed, a large body of compelling research has demonstrated how these unconscious, automatically activated, and pervasive mental processes can be manifested across a variety of contexts yielding significant impacts.  Consider these striking examples: In a video game that simulates what police officers experience, research subjects were instructed to “shoot” when an armed individual appeared on the screen and refrain from doing so when the target was instead holding an innocuous object such as a camera or wallet.  Time constraints were built into the study so that participants were forced to make nearly instantaneous decisions, much like police officers often must do in real life.  Findings indicated that participants tended to “shoot” armed targets more quickly when they were African American as opposed to White.  When participants refrained from “shooting” an armed target, these characters in the simulation tended to be White rather than African American.  Moreover, in circumstances where the target was ...

The Democratic Merit Project

The Democratic Merit Project This project has received generous support from Public Interest Projects – Fulfilling the Dream Fund Overview The Democratic Merit Project  challenges institutions to operationalize “merit” in a way that promotes the conditions necessary for a thriving democracy and to define and use merit as an incentive system to reward those actions that a society values. One principal objective of the project is to link diversity and equal opportunity with the democratic mission of higher education. This objective is stimulated by the proposition that, in the United States, institutions of higher education are not uniformly meeting their responsibility to promote diversity and energize democracy by admitting students who have the will to advance a democratic society.  When measuring merit among applicants, colleges and universities too often focus heavily on traditional “objective measures of excellence” based on what students have done, who their parents are, and how they have performed on standardized achievement tests. This strategy assists in reinforcing the selectivity of some institutions while ignoring or deemphasizing what students might produce or contribute to the larger society after they graduate—a transformative way of contextualizing the concept of merit and connecting merit to democratic values. Goals of the Project The Democratic Merit Project was developed in 2007 from a proposal crafted by Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard University, john powell, then Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and Williams Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University (currently Director, Haas Diversity Research Center and Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion, University of California, Berkeley) and Claude Steele, then Lucie Stern Professor in the ...