Plausible counterfactuals in the study of structural racism and population health

Anusha Vable, Zinzi Bailey, Julia Raifman

For #SER2020 we organized a symposium entitled “Plausible counterfactuals in the study of structural racism and population health”. This playlist contains papers that informed our thinking on this issue, were discussed during our symposium, or came up as useful papers in the discussion following the presentation. In the first paper, Bailey and colleagues define Structural Racism as “the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care, and criminal justice.”, and clarify how structural racism scaffolds and legitimizes all the other forms of racism (institutional, interpersonal, and internalized). In the second paper, Venkataramani and colleagues use difference-in-difference analysis to show that banning affirmative action is a racist policy as bans harm structurally minoritized groups and do not effect structurally advantaged groups. In the third paper, Mooney and colleagues perform a time series analysis to show that California’s implementation of Prop 47 (which reclassified drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor) was anti-racist as it disproportionately benefitted Black Californians resulting in smaller racial disparities in drug arrests (this paper is also has an excellent example of why we should make policy decisions based on absolute rather than relative disparities). The final two papers describe methodological approaches that are important to consider for determining if a policy is racist or anti-racist. We hope this playlist will help to catalyze more research evaluating if policies are racist or anti-racist