On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies and White House offices to examine barriers to racial equity and initiated several efforts to address equity for people of color and underserved communities. The executive order takes an unprecedented step by committing the government to actively pursuing more equitable engagement and outcomes across all agencies and policy areas.

The order not only clarifies the government’s essential role in advancing racial equity—it also denotes the role data play in tracking progress and holding government accountable.

The order calls for the development of an Equitable Data Working Group (EDWG)—an interagency effort reporting to the President through the Domestic Policy Council—to examine the existing federal data infrastructure and provide recommendations for improving it. A large part of this effort will be disaggregating data by race, gender, and other demographic variables so policymakers can better understand policy implications and develop targeted solutions to ensure more equitable outcomes.

Establishing the EDWG is an important step to improving federal data infrastructure. Between our new Racial Equity Analytics Lab, our data science work, and other efforts, Urban Institute researchers have been arguing for the need and benefits of more disaggregated data and better data infrastructure, and we suggest five actions for policymakers’ consideration.

  1. Shoring up and modernizing the census
  2. Establishing better data sharing
  3. Making the communities of focus part of the process
  4. Examining new and creative methods to address data limitations
  5. Taking privacy seriously

Read the full article about equitable data by Steven Brown, Graham MacDonald, and Claire Bowen at Urban Institute.