Identifying Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Human Services Marla McDaniel, Tyler Woods, Eleanor Pratt, Margaret Simms



When there is evidence of racial and ethnic differences at any point in the service delivery spectrum—for example, in access to and take-up of human services, in the nature and quality of services received, or in the outcomes of services—it can be challenging to interpret what those differences mean. In particular, it can be challenging to understand whether and to what extent those differences represent disparities. Disparities mean that one group is systematically faring worse than another for reasons that are not due to the group’s needs, eligibility, or preferences.

This report helps the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) build the base of knowledge necessary to reliably identify and interpret racial and ethnic differences in relation to ACF’s human services programs. Better understanding these differences and being able to distinguish when those differences indicate disparities can help improve ACF’s program delivery. To further ACF’s understanding, this report synthesizes the existing research on racial and ethnic differences and disparities in relation to the service delivery systems of six programs, or program areas, administered by ACF:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Child Support Enforcement Program
  • Child Care and Development Fund
  • Head Start
  • Family and Youth Services Bureau programs for runaway and homeless youth and adolescent pregnancy prevention

To facilitate this synthesis, the report provides a clear definition of disparities. It also develops a conceptual framework for identifying racial and ethnic differences throughout the service delivery system and for distinguishing racial and ethnic differences from disparities. READ FULL ARTICLE