Racial inequities in income, health, and other indicators of social and economic well-being are not inevitable. They have been created and perpetuated over time through systemic bias, public policy, and institutional practices, and eliminating these inequities requires thoroughly analyzing existing and proposed policies to root out bias and promote equity, opportunity, and inclusion.
Racial equity impact assessments are a formal process in which a city, county, school, or agency analyzes how a budgetary or policy decision is likely to impact different racial and ethnic groups, modeled after the environmental impact statements required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 to anticipate the positive and negative environmental effects of proposed policy decisions. These assessments can help local leaders to understand the racial equity implications of an existing or proposed policy, program, or institutional practice, and to determine if it will ameliorate or exacerbate existing economic and social inequities.
The general framework for an equity impact assessment is a structured analysis that can be applied to any standard policy- or decision-making process with the goal of identifying the populations likely to be affected and taking steps to close existing racial gaps and/or mitigate unintended consequences. This framework can easily be adapted a single agency or implemented throughout all city operations. Some racial equity assessment processes concentrate on budgets and expenditures, while others are designed to analyze all policy and program decisions. Addressing ongoing racial inequities is an economic as well as moral imperative: according to the National Equity Atlas, racial gaps in income cost the United States about $2.4 trillion in 2014, and a 2015 report found that racial health inequities cost the economy an estimated $245 billion in excess health care expenditures, illness-related lost productivity, and premature deaths.
For more resources on racial equity impact assessments, see the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Race Forward, and Living Cities.