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Institutional Racism and Health: a Framework for Conceptualization, Measurement, and Analysis


Despite growing interest in the health-related consequences of racially discriminatory institutional policies and practices, public health scholars have yet to reach a consensus on how to measure and analyze exposure to institutional racism. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the conceptualization, measurement, and analysis of institutional racism in the context of quantitative research on minority health and health disparities in the United States. We begin by providing definitions of key concepts (e.g., racialization, racism, racial inequity) and describing linkages between these ideas. Next, we discuss the hypothesized mechanisms that link exposure to institutional racism with health. We then provide a framework to advance empirical research on institutional racism and health, informed by a literature review that summarizes measures and analytic approaches used in previous studies. The framework addresses six considerations: (1) policy identification, (2) population of interest, (3) exposure measurement, (4) outcome measurement, (5) study design, and (6) analytic approach. Research utilizing the proposed framework will help inform structural interventions to promote minority health and reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

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