Ten years ago, halfway through the first term of our first Black president, Dori Maynard, the late president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, asked me to compile a list of studies showing racial disparities in various aspects of American life. I put together a compendium of more than 150 studies that found inequity in education, health, housing, criminal justice and employment. I was struck by how pervasive racial inequality was, in every nook and cranny of our society. The term structural racism was fairly new.

As the events of this year have unfolded, I remembered that report and contacted the Institute about doing an updated version that would be useful and might find a more receptive audience. In addition to the original categories, I looked at wealth and the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, I was stunned by the ubiquity of racial disparity. This time I stopped at 260 studies. There were three times the number of reports on structural racism as 10 years ago.

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed much of the structural inequity the studies document. Black Americans have gotten sicker, are five times more likely to be hospitalized than whites, and have died in disproportionate numbers — in Chicago ,they are 30 percent of the population and 60 percent of the deaths. Black businesses did not receive a proportionate share of the stimulus package because they don’t have relationships with major banks. The virus threw off the facade of a just, equal society and demonstrated that Black Americans are physically ill and living on the margins.

And then Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, ignoring his pleas for his life. That incomprehensible video flagrantly illustrated the motivation of Alicia Garza to co-found the Black Lives Matter movement. The cases of Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and far too many others have been a cruel reminder that many do not value Black lives. COVID-19 exposed a society that does not value Black lives.

If the country had taken structural racism to heart 10 years ago, how much more progress would we have made toward achieving racial equality? There were proposed solutions then, as there are now. This time, I thought if there is a silver lining to the evidence of extensive racial inequality, it is that so many organizations and scholars are studying it. Then I realized I had made the same observation 10 years ago.

We find ourselves with a re-invigorated opportunity to recognize and repair the racial inequity that has not only limited Black Americans, but limited the country overall. One study found that if Black families had the wealth of white families, the country’s economy would be $1.5 trillion larger.

As the author James Baldwin emphasized throughout his career, this is not Black America’s problem, it is America’s problem.

This report is designed as a tool for journalists and researchers. It includes links to more than 260 studies that, since 2010, have found racial disparities in all aspects of American society. Most of the sections include examples of institutions and initiatives working to solve the problem. Many of the studies can serve as a launching point for journalists to investigate the specific issue in their communities.

It begins with examinations of structural racism.

Structural Racism

Structural Racism Toward Solutions


It didn’t take long for the pandemic to unmask the structural racism in American society. Black Americans were at higher risk to get the virus and have higher death and hospitalization rates. The economic impact has also been disproportionate, with higher numbers of Black people unable to pay their rent or make mortgage payments. Once children were sent home from school, continuing their education online was also more problematic for Black students because a greater percentage did not have the necessary technology. Small Black businesses largely did not benefit from the paycheck protection program because they did not have a relationship with a major bank. Even the arrests for failing to practice social distancing in New York City saw huge racial disparities — 90 percent of those arrested were people of color.

Criminal Justice

Racial inequities in the criminal justice system have been long-documented. The first citation is a compilation of 140 studies showing racial disparity at every level of the system, from policing, to misdemeanors, the war on drugs, jury selection, the death penalty, plea bargaining, sentencing, solitary confinement, bail and pardons. Other studies show racial inequality in police violence and harassment. As a result of mass incarceration, Black communities are disproportionately disenfranchised. This section includes a 2018 report to the United Nations on racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Criminal Justice Racial Inequality Toward Solutions




As stated, the racial disparities in school discipline have been documented for sometime. They continue. Studies also show disparities in college graduation rates. One area that is getting more study is the role of teacher’s racial perceptions. Black teachers produce better academic and behavioral results with Black students and are more likely to recognize gifted Black students than white teachers. Yet public school teachers are far less diverse then their student bodies; teachers of color represent 20 percent of the nation’s public school teachers while students of color comprise 51 percent of the public school students. White teachers are more likely to view Black students as troublemakers than white students with similar behavior.

School Discipline

Teachers and Racial Disparity

Education Racial Disparities Toward Solutions


The Black white unemployment rate has been a reality for so long, it is almost assumed. Even when unemployment rates go down, the gap between Black and white unemployment is persistent. The Black rate is generally twice that of the white rate. Studies find racial disparity in wages, in wages after graduation from college, in employment and earnings after incarceration. Applicants with Black-sounding names are called in for fewer interviews. Black workers are disproportionately affected by layoffs and stay unemployed longer. Newsrooms are less diverse than the workforce; newsrooms are 77 percent white, the workforce is 65 percent white.


As stated, the racial disparities in health have been a longstanding problem, As I wrote 10 years ago, “The medical profession understands that these disparities are the most fundamental indictment of a society that claims to be based on equality.” Many of the same disparities persist, in infant and maternal mortality rates, life expectancy. Black patients are less likely to receive appropriate treatment for cardiac care, kidney disease, stroke, cancer or AIDS. They are more likely to have an amputation. Doctors are less likely to prescribe state of the art tests for Black patients and more likely to send them home from the hospital too soon. Even regarding pain medication, doctors were less likely to prescribe pain medication for Black patients. One reason Black Americans are sicker, a disproportionate number live near oil and gas facilities and face more health-threatening air pollution.

Health Racial Disparities Toward Solutions

Environmental Racial Disparities

Environmental Racial Disparities Toward Solutions

Healthy Food

Healthy Food Racial Disparities Toward Solutions


Owning a house is central to the American Dream, yet homeownership has been elusive for Black Americans. The 30-percent gap between white and Black home ownership is higher today than in 1968. Shockingly, Black college graduates have a lower home ownership rate than white high school drop outs. Racial disparities in lending are part of the problem and the resulting lack of homeownership contributes to the Black white wealth gap. Even once Black families purchase homes, there is racial inequity in the appreciation of homes. Black people are more likely to report racial discrimination when looking for a place to rent. The disparity also shows up in homelessness: Black people make up 13 percent of the nation’s population and 40 percent of the homeless, a disparity that is another indication of structural racism in areas such as employment and the criminal justice system.

Housing Racial Inequality Toward Solutions



Banking Racial Inequality Toward Solutions


The Black white wealth gap has received more attention in recent years, recognized as a fundamental measure of inequality that effects myriad aspects of life. The Brookings Institution describes it as the result of accumulated inequality and discrimination. Median white wealth is 12 times median Black wealth. Racial disparity is found in business ownership, being “unbanked” (not having a traditional bank or checking account ) and insurance rates. Business owners of color with better credit scores than their white counterparts are subjected to worse treatment and more scrutiny. McKinsey& Company estimates that if Black families had the wealth of white families, the country’s economy would be $1.5 trillion larger. The wealth gap limits Black Americans and the country at large.

Wealth Racial Inequality Toward Solutions