Race as a 'Bundle of Sticks': Designs that Estimate Effects of Seemingly Immutable Characteristics

Citation:

Sen, Maya, and Omar Wasow. 2016. “Race as a 'Bundle of Sticks': Designs that Estimate Effects of Seemingly Immutable Characteristics.” Annual Review of Political Science 19: 499-522. Copy at http://j.mp/1CNEEs4
race_causality.pdf387 KB

Date Published:

2016

Abstract:

Although understanding the role of race, ethnicity, and identity is central to political science, methodological debates persist about whether it is possible to estimate the effect of something ``immutable.'' At the heart of the debate is an older theoretical question: is race best understood under an essentialist or constructivist framework? In contrast to the ``immutable characteristics'' or essentialist approach, we argue that race should be operationalized as a ``bundle of sticks'' that can be disaggregated into elements. With elements of race, causal claims may be possible using two designs: (1) studies that measure the effect of exposure to a racial cue and (2) studies that exploit within-group variation to measure the effect of some manipulable element. These designs can reconcile scholarship on race and causation and offer a clear framework for future research.

Notes:

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Publisher's Version

Last updated on 05/13/2016