What Is Structural Racial Inequity?


A bank chooses where branches will open and who it will lend to. A business decides to locate where labor is plentiful and taxes are low. A local government decides to cut funding for public transit to address a budget shortfall. Communities will not prosper when they have fewer banks, little access to credit for homes and businesses, and longer, more expensive commutes to get to jobs.

Collectively, decisions like these structure the world we live in, and determine what opportunities and challenges we face. Whether we have decent housing, quality healthcare and good schools, among many other things, is helped or hindered by these interactions. But too often the impact of these decisions comes at the expense of immigrants, Black America, Latinos, or other isolated communities of color:

  • Unemployment is too high. And today, people of color are nearly twice as likely to be out of work.
  •  Black Americans have, on average, one-tenth of the assets of similar White families.
  • Schools that have a majority of students of color typically lack funding and other resources, and have significantly lower graduation rates as a result.
  • Forty-seven million Americans lack health insurance, and half of the uninsured are people of color.

Something isn’t right. What is it? We all may have a ready answer, but looking deeply at policy reveals a hopeful prospect, that policy is behind these problems and policy can fix it.

If policy is the root of the problem, it is also the place to find a solution.  We can craft public policy demands that chip away at the structural arrangements that produce these disparities, and that work together to build a vibrant and opportunity-rich society.  We must recognize, as a growing body of research shows, that policies that explicitly address the needs of communities of color will build a healthier society that improves the well-being of us all.

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