In conversation with equity: Qualitatively engaging quantitative data for equitable social impact

Our article in Public Integrity
Published: 10.13.2023 Updated: 10.13.2023


Making meaningful progress towards achieving racial equity in public serving institutions requires making equity-informed decisions, which itself requires the use of equity-oriented data. Public and nonprofit organizations, however, are at varying degrees of readiness to use this data and to make equity-focused decisions. We draw on qualitative research to examine how children’s hospitals use equity-focused neighborhood data to understand racial/ethnic inequities in the populations they serve and eventually to make decisions that can help correct these inequities. The interactions between data producers and users involve not only technical exchanges, but also the adoption of shared analytic frameworks that center equity, as well as “nervous” conversations. Our analysis indicates that qualitative interrogations of the use of quantitative data within organizations may help to overcome knowledge, organization, and equity readiness barriers to equitable outcomes. Using equity-focused data for data-driven decision-making is relational, so qualitative research methods can facilitate the reflexivity and critical mindsets needed to change organizational practices to improve racial equity. Employing qualitative methods can help data producers make their construction and dissemination of data more rigorous. Facilitating equity conversations can also help improve relationships with data users, which is necessary for data collaborations to promote racial equity.

Headshot of Robert Ressler
Robert Ressler
Senior Research Associate
Michelle Weiner headshot
Michelle Weiner
Child Opportunity Index Research and Outreach Manager
Headshot of Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Director, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy