Blog 10- Data Collection Discussion

Starting off this discussion, one speaker brought up the lack of data on race in Brazil.  The problem partly stems from the nature of employment in Brazil. While in the US, a researcher can gather data based on job ads and job placement, in Brazil, many of these positions are filled through social networking. This adds to the difficulty of gathering accurate data on whether job discrimination occurs. For example, despite the growing Black Movement in Brazil during 1978, it took 20 years later with solid data in order to prove that racial democracy does not work. The Black Movement needed the data to prove that racial discrimination was occurring in the work place.     

Data, however, can be used against those supporting affirmative action policies. Opponents can skew the data in their favor. Edward Telles acknowledged the double edge sword of data collecting in these incidents. In India, both opponents and proponents argue against the need for data. Both sides suggest, if India is trying to move towards a caste free society, then conducting a data survey focusing on caste will only exacerbate the problem. In addition, census data based on race can lead to ethnic cleansing, such as those targeted at the Muslim population.  Or nationalistic groups can target Christian groups in order to reconvert them.

Despite the initial lack of reliable surveys, the RFJ Center for Human Rights in Washington and a center in India will conduct an untouchability survey in 3,000 villages.  In addition, data is slowly being collected to show the gap between reform legislation and the actual implementation of them.  Although 58,000 reported atrocities are committed daily against scheduled caste members, 89% of the cases are acquitted.  The data gathered offered proof that these laws are not bringing about the required results.  

Ultimately, the group stepped back to compare the collection of data in the US and Brazil in contrast to India. While some claim the US sorely lacks in data compared to India, one participant noted the surveys may be there but they are underutilized or no longer conducted due to a change in administration. Susceptibility to international influence also appears greater outside the US. In Brazil, for example, the Millennium Development Goal allowed the government to target certain races for achieving goals such as lower infant mortality rate or reduce illiteracy.  

Despite the full support of the Indian government behind the collection of data on caste, a participant from India acknowledged the monumental task behind the breaking down of each caste into its sub group and determining who needs affirmative action policies. Despite the numerous other kinds of data collecting noted by the group, such as opinion surveys, micro-studies, self-reporting (victimization by police in Brazil), participants realized that the accuracy of the categorization of surveyed people determines the usefulness and reliability of the data. Once they were able to acknowledge this handicap of survey research, the group was able to move on to the next topic at hand.




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