Measuring Structural Racism: A Guide for Epidemiologists and Other Health Researchers

Paris B. Adkins-Jackson, Tongtan Chantarat, Zinzi D. Bailey, Ninez A. Ponce

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


There have been over 100 years of literature discussing the deleterious influence of racism on health. Much of the literature describes racism as a driver of social determinants of health, such as housing, employment, income, and education. More recently, increased attention has been given to measuring the structural nature of a system that advantages one racialized group over others rather than solely relying on individual acknowledgement of racism. Despite these advances, there is still a need for methodological and analytical approaches to complement the aforementioned. This commentary calls on epidemiologists and other health researchers at large to engage the discourse on measuring structural racism. First, we address the conflation between race and racism in epidemiologic research. Next, we offer methodological recommendations (linking of interdisciplinary variables and data sets and leveraging mixed-method and life-course approaches) and analytical recommendations (integration of mixed data, use of multidimensional models) that epidemiologists and other health researchers may consider in health equity research. The goal of this commentary is to inspire the use of up-to-date and theoretically driven approaches to increase discourse among public health researchers on capturing racism as well as to improve evidence of its role as the fundamental cause of racial health inequities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-547
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partially supported by the Michael J. Fox Foundation (P.B.A.-J.)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. All rights reserved.


  • health disparities
  • health inequities
  • interdisciplinary methods
  • measurement
  • structural racism

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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