Institute for the Study of “Race” and Social Justice

About the Institute

NIH Race Census Symposium

The Institute for the Study of "Race" and Social Justice is an initiative within the RWJF Center for Health Policy to address the pressing social and economic issues that affect the health and well-being of all Americans. Its mission is to promote the establishment of empirical, theoretical and methodological clarity about "race" that draws on cutting-edge thinking from multiple disciplines and diverse empirical traditions. The Institute is led by Nancy López, Ph.D. (UNM Department of Sociology), and seeks to develop ways of empirically measuring "race" and assessing racialization processes in order to develop strategies for ameliorating race-based inequality. Dr. López places "race" in quotes to underscore its nature as a socially constructed category of social status in particular historical contexts, rather than as a reified category that is essential or fixed.

Despite the fact that "race" is neither rooted in biology (or genetics) or fixed in time and space, racial inequality persists and often remains at the root of socioeconomic inequality, health disparities and other measurements of social stratification in the United States. Racism is a major factor in determining one's health in our society, as it translates into persistent stress, associated illness and prolonged suffering or premature death. Over the centuries, American Indians, African Americans and Latinos have suffered from severe racism in various forms, and they experience the poorest health status as a result.

Objectives of the Institute

  • Provide best practices expertise (i.e., empirical, theoretical, methodological) and consulting to researchers in the natural and social sciences seeking to incorporate racial variables and racialization processes and dynamics into their studies.
  • Provide expertise and consulting community members and policy-makers at the tribal, state, county and municipal levels for measuring (assessing) and ameliorating (addressing) racial disparities; create successful research partnerships between the university and surrounding local and national communities.
  • Foster an institutional context for ongoing scholarly conversations about the empirical, theoretical and methodological understanding and empirical study of "race."
  • Mentor RWJF Center fellows in their predoctoral, dissertation, and postdoctoral studies; career development of the next generation of scholarship on "race" disparities, equity and social justice.
  • Nurture research agendas of UNM faculty as they relate to mapping and interrupting racial disparities and promoting equity and social justice in health and community viability, education, law and criminal justice.

Downloadable content

Additional Information:

Please contact Nancy López,, (505) 277-3101

Below are a few national resources also advocating the importance of cultural understanding as it affects the health and well-being of all Americans.