By Alex Shashkevich
Using statistics to inform the public about racial disparities can backfire. Worse yet, it can cause some people to be more supportive of the policies that create those inequalities, according to new Stanford research.
“One of the barriers of reducing inequality is how some people justify and rationalize it,” said Rebecca Hetey, a Stanford psychology researcher. “A lot of people doing social justice work wonder why attitudes are so immune to change. Our research shows that simply presenting the numbers is not enough.”
If raw numbers don’t always work, what might?
In a new research paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Hetey and Stanford psychology Professor Jennifer Eberhardt propose strategies anyone could use to talk about racial disparities that exist across society, from education to health care and criminal justice systems.
Facts should be accompanied with context that challenges stereotypes, the researchers said, noting that discussions should emphasize the importance of policies in shaping racial inequalities.