Building an Antiracist Society

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Terminology question

  • 1.  Terminology question

    Posted 12-28-2020 13:50

    Greetings community! - I have a concrete (but not simple) question on which I would appreciate some feedback. 

    For reporting to an NIH funding agency we provide demographics on the currently enrolled participants.  Currently, we use the term "diverse" to describe participants who are in a racial/ethnic minority group or who are low SES.  Personally, I don't like this term because it suggests a deviation from the "norm" ("norm" clearly being defined as white and/or middle/upper SES).  But I can't think of another shorthand term.  

    What do you folks think about the term "diverse" in this context?  Am I being too picky? 

    If you don't like the term in this context, do you have another suggestion?  Please note, this term is being used in progress report text and tables, so space is a premium.  In addition, we have smallish numbers, so can't list a long series of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups.  We need to use the grouping we have, I'm just looking for a better term.

    This is my first post to SRCD Commons and I want to apologize in advance if this type of question is not appropriate in this forum, or if I have posted to the wrong community.  Please let me know if I should handle this question in a different way. 



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    Joanna Bulkley
    Senior Research Associate
    Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research
    Portland OR
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  • 2.  RE: Terminology question

    Posted 01-01-2021 07:40

    Instead of characterizing my sample, I have started to just provide all the details. Describe number and % of participants in various categories (race, ethnicity, income, education). We avoid saying things like "majority of sample was white, middle class". Basically avoiding any message that there is a norm  

    following this because would love to hear other suggestions. 



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    Kristin Buss
    University Park PA
    814-863-1715
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  • 3.  RE: Terminology question

    Posted 01-04-2021 14:12
    Interesting question. I do something similar to what Kristin Buss suggested. Most recently demographic forms that I use have changed wording to ask participants how they identify vs. which race or ethnicity category they belong to. Then all demographic information gets reported in a table to be as transparent as possible and/or in-text being able to state "% participants identify as.... " If my study includes a grouped category of non-white participants, I use Participants of Color as a reference to the category. However, I still list all representation within this group in a table. My gut response to seeing the term 'diverse' in text is questioning what that means and frustration with continued confusion that diverse/diversity is synonymous with non-white, which it isn't. 
    Thanks for the post & interested to hear from others!

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    Charisse Pickron
    University of Minnesota
    413-687-9344
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  • 4.  RE: Terminology question

    Posted 01-13-2021 13:28
    Greetings Joanna,

    You raise an interesting and important question. Like Kristin and Charisse, I too often provide a list of participants' self-identified social identities with the percentages/counts represented within the sample. However, I appreciate that NIH may have a preference or strong conventions for how samples are described (albeit for better or worse). One suggestion might be to use the term "diverse," but define within the context of your study. This definition could be included in the main body of the report, or as a footnote, to demonstrate/signal to readers that you are NOT assuming a deviation from the norm rather as shorthand to signal an inclusive/varied sample. Another suggestion would be to describe the sample as being inclusive of varied social identities, along with the associated percentages. Such description supports the self-identification of social identities by participants, without establishing a norm or hierarchy. I hope this helps!

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    Lionel Howard
    Dr.
    The George Washington University
    Washington DC
    202-994-4959
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