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138 Race not defined: varying definitions of race limit research and mask disparities
  1. Julia Blackwell1,
  2. Theresa Cruz2,
  3. Bernadette Hohl3,
  4. Regan Murray4,
  5. Linda Degutis5,
  6. Kate Fitch6,7,
  7. Shabbar Ranapurwala6,7
  1. 1Agnes Scott college, Atlanta, GA, Atlanta, USA
  2. 2Prevention Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, Albuquerque, USA
  3. 3Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Rutgers University, School of Public Health, Piscataway, NJ, Piscataway, USA
  4. 4Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, College of Education and Health Professions, Univ of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Fayetteville, USA
  5. 5Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, New Haven, USA
  6. 6Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC, Chapel Hill, USA
  7. 7Injury Prevention Research Center, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC, Chapel Hill, USA


Statement of Purpose Systemic racism effects injury and violence-related outcomes. However, inconsistent use of variables describing race/ethnicity prevents comparisons between studies and outcomes, and even the racial groups themselves. We examined how the injury and violence prevention (IVP) literature defines and uses the race variable.

Methods/Approach We reviewed all manuscripts, excluding postscripts, electronic pages, editorials, policy forums, and opinion pieces, that were published in the journal Injury Prevention from 2018–2020. We analyzed the manuscripts for inclusion of variables including race, ethnicity, caste, aboriginal status, and nationality (referred to hereafter as race). Where race data were available, we determined how race was defined, including in the original datasets used in the studies; if race was collapsed; and any rationale provided for collapsing race. Similar analysis of research published in the journal Injury Epidemiology is underway.

Results From 2018–2020, 283 research articles were published in Injury Prevention. Of those, 80 (28.3%) used datasets where race was available, and 55 (19.4%) used race in the published research. Of the 55, 19 (34.5%) manuscripts did not define race. Among the 36 manuscripts that defined race, there were a total of 25 different definitions used, including 17 different definitions of the race variable from the United States alone. Further, in 29 (52.7%) manuscripts the race variable was collapsed into fewer categories for analyses; only five of those provided a reason for collapsing the variable.

Conclusions The use of race as a variable is inconsistent in the IVP literature, which may lead to incomplete reporting and masking of racial/ethnic disparities.

Significance Different definitions of race make it hard to compare data across studies or identify improvement or exacerbation of racial inequities. The IVP literature would benefit from using consistent data elements or, at a minimum, providing definitions of race variables and the rationale for their use.

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