Race Categorization and the Regulation of Business and Science

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2010-11-22 02:33Z by Steven

Race Categorization and the Regulation of Business and Science

Law & Society Review
Volume 44, Issue 3-4 (September/December 2010)
pages 617–650
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5893.2010.00418.x

Catherine Lee, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research
Rutgers University

John D. Skrentny, Director, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Professor of Sociology
University of California, San Diego

Despite the lack of consensus regarding the meaning or significance of race or ethnicity amongst scientists and the lay public, there are legal requirements and guidelines that dictate the collection of racial and ethnic data across a range of institutions. Legal regulations are typically created through a political process and then face varying kinds of resistance when the state tries to implement them. We explore the nature of this opposition by comparing responses from businesses, scientists, and science-oriented businesses (pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies) to U.S. state regulations that used politically derived racial categorizations, originally created to pursue civil rights goals. We argue that insights from cultural sociology regarding institutional and cultural boundaries can aid understanding of the nature of resistance to regulation. The Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines for research by pharmaceutical companies imposed race categories on science-based businesses, leading to objections that emphasized the autonomy and validity of science. In contrast, similar race categories regulating first business by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and later scientific research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) encountered little challenge. We argue that pharmaceutical companies had the motive (profit) that NIH-supported scientists lacked and a legitimate discourse (boundary work of science) that businesses regulated by the EEOC did not have. The study suggests the utility of a comparative cultural sociology of the politics of legal regulation, particularly when understanding race-related regulation and the importance of examining legal regulations for exploring how the meaning of race or ethnicity are contested and constructed in law.

…Drug companies and their industry association representatives argued that other conflicts could arise in using these categories outside the United States. Test subjects outside the United States would be unwilling, they claimed, to answer questions that many Americans might not find objectionable. A number of the pharmaceutical companies commented that in clinical studies conducted outside the United States, the Latino or Hispanic ethnicity question would render meaningless information from places such as Spain, where all subjects could be classified as Hispanic but whose cultural experiences and history may be more in alignment with France than with those of American Hispanics. Equally troubling as the Hispanic question was the lack of group specificity for the Asian category and uncertainty related to how multiracial subjects should be counted. In raising these concerns about how to identify and count Australian Aborigines, Spaniards, or Asians, these companies and organizations challenged the scientific integrity, applicability, and generalizability of the OMB categories. The lack of external validity violated a central tenet of the scientific method…

Read the entire article here.

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