Race Data

Our mission is to foster the improvements in the analysis of health related phenomena among older minority; encourage the development of methods and measures that better capture the health and determinants of health of diverse elders; promote collaboration between RCMAR sites on analysis issues; and disseminate new knowledge in this area.

Race Data

Quality of Secondary data on Race and Ethnicity in Health Research

Prepared by: Center for Aging in Diverse Communities (CADC), UCSF and RCMAR Coordinating Center (UCLA)

Although the concept of race is regularly used as a meaningful descriptor in health research, many have challenged the scientific utility of the concept. There is no doubt that the construct of race is often used in an uncritical manner. It is sometimes used as a proxy for socioeconomic status and is very often used synonymously with such terms as ethnicity and culture. As a result, the scientific community is witnessing an increase in writings questioning the existence of race as a biologically or genetically meaningful construct. Similarly, some have noted that while terms such as “Black,” “Hispanic,” “Asian,” “American Indian,” and “White,” may be bureaucratically convenient, they have made talking and thinking about race and ethnicity somewhat simplistic. Some argue that these are overly broad pan-ethnic labels that categorize a disparate number of groups who happen to share a few visible characteristics such as skin color and a few other identifiable physical features. Others argue that these are biologically meaningful population groups with significant genetic differences. These varying perspectives have resulted in some interesting and provocative reading material. This list is based on the assumption that all social scientists interested in a deeper understanding of population group differences can benefit from exposure to the ongoing debate about the appropriate conceptualization and measurement (e.g., self-report versus observer report) of race and ethnicity and the quality of data on race/ethnicity in different datasets.

Last updated August 2011