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How to measure and report race

How to measure and report race: Welcome

How to measure and report race

Broderick Turner
Esther Udeuhi
October 20, 2021

What is Race?

First, let us define race.

The T.R.A.P. lab builds on the Guess (2006) definition of race as an assigned social categorization defined by some shared phenotypic traits in which groups that are racialized have dissymmetric control or access to resources and status, whereas the groups with asymmetric control to resources and status can assign the racial categories.

In more straight-forward language, race, as we know it, is a category that is created and maintained by racism. By assigning one group as "Black" for instance, the original US colonialists (e.g., "the assignors") were able to enact laws that stripped them of their personhood. 

Race is not genetic or biological. In that sense, race is not real. But racism, is real, and it is racism, as a market system, that creates race.

So, given that, if we know someone's racial categorization, it may help us understand how chronic asymmetric or dissymmetric access to status and resources may impact our theoretical models.

Why should we measure race?

Why do we measure any social categorization? Why do we measure age or gender? The most basic reason we do this, is to understand how someone's social categorization might interact with any theoretical construct, or how it might help or inhibit an effect. For instance, if you were researching responses to gender in advertising, might you want to know how many women were in the experiment? And if their response differed from the male response? In that regard, you have already acknowledged that social categories are important and provide materially different answers to questions. Given our definition of race above, wouldn't race also mean that people had materially different experiences that may impact how they respond?

How to measure race? 

We recommend two different methods. Both have their plusses and minuses. 

1) Measure race as a fixed categorization:

Example: Which of the following best describes your racial identity, i.e., the racial group you most identify with?





Other, not specified

Plusses: Using a fixed categorization makes a binary distinction between the group with asymmetric resource control in the US (e.g. White) versus other racialized groups. This distinction makes it easier for a researcher to quickly discern what how or if race (as a proxy for racism) interacts with their models.

Minuses: Measuring race as a fixed category confounds race and ethnicity. For example, as person can be of Hispanic ethnicity, but either White or Black racially. This method also obscures those people who identify as multi-racial.

2) Measure race as multi-dimensional:

Example: Please select all of the following that describe your racial identity, i.e., the racial group you most identify with?






Other, not specified

Plusses: By measuring race as multi-dimensional it allows for researchers to consider in a more nuanced manor how multiple racial and ethnic identities may impact their models. This method also allows for more accurate reporting for those participants who are multi-racial.

Minuses: It is possible to obscure one's racial identity, and the effect the societal understanding of hypodescent (i.e., the "one drop rule") may impact a researcher's model (Ho et al. 2011).

How to report race?

We suggest that researchers report the full table of racial demographics in their appendices (unless the racial information makes a participant identifiable). Within the manuscript, we suggest that researchers list the two largest racial groups in order by percentage of the sample. For example:

Study one recruited 492 participants (Mage = 43.2, SD = 11.8, 51.6% Female, 61.3% White, 21.5% Asian)

In Closing:

Measure race. Report race. Improve your theories.


Guess, Teresa J. "The social construction of whiteness: Racism by intent, racism by consequence." Critical Sociology32, no. 4 (2006): 649-673.

Ho, Arnold K., Jim Sidanius, Daniel T. Levin, and Mahzarin R. Banaji. "Evidence for hypodescent and racial hierarchy in the categorization and perception of biracial individuals." Journal of personality and social psychology 100, no. 3 (2011): 492.

To Cite this Work:

Turner, Broderick, Esther Uduehi. "How to measure and report race." T.R.A.P Lab. October 20, 2021.

How to measure and report race: Project
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