Abstract for: Structural Racism and System Dynamics: A Theory and Methodology for Addressing Racial Disparities

Understanding how interactions between apparently race-neutral institutions and policies can produce racial disparities is essential to a Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 21st Century. Moving from a discourse that focuses on intent as the determining factor in whether racism exists to a discourse that focuses on the existence of racial disparities and the structures that reproduce them requires a new language and vocabulary. Conceptualizing and operationalizing effective interventions that will reduce these disparities requires a new methodology. System dynamics can play a key role in providing both a language and a methodology to better understand the continuing presence of racial disparities across nearly every indicator of wellbeing. Most attempts to reduce racial disparities have met with considerable policy resistance, and modeling work must focus on identifying key leverage points. In this mostly qualitative work, causal-loop diagrams are pulled from relevant research and key reference modes are examined for insights into the structures perpetuating racial hierarchy. A dynamic hypothesis is proposed that the stock of African-Americans living in areas of concentrated poverty is one of the key drivers of racial disparities. Suggestions and opportunities for further modeling and next steps are also outlined.