The Program for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Culture (PSERC) is a campus-wide program of Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Our program’s core aim is to explore the meaning of living race in an increasingly complex racial world. We enact this vision through conducting research projects under this larger theme, convening conversations amongst academics and the public at large, and providing various “tools” to advance understanding of what race.

Why a Program on Race

Race is complicated, especially in Houston. Houston stands as one of the most ethnically and racially diverse cities and one of the only cities with no clear racial majority . What does this diversity mean on the ground? Race is “lived” in our interactions with friends, relatives, even strangers, and is also experienced when we fill out forms, apply for jobs, and even look for housing. While many see race as mattering less to how we live our lives, there are many signs that it matters as much or more to how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others. And yet, what that means and how that becomes “real” to the individual is not straightforward.

What are the complex ways that race is lived today?

PSERC’s devoted effort to addressing this core issue. Recently, we convened conference titled Measuring the Diverging Components of Race In Multiracial America (MDCR) aimed at exploring the essential question: do we need more than one way to measure an individual’s race? The conference brought together an array of scholars to examine the new and multi-faceted ways race is captured in research-such as skin color, through observations by outsiders, and how individual’s think they are perceived by others. The conference proceedings can be found on-line. In addition, PSERC is examining how more complicated ways race is lived impacts the ways race shapes life changes in several projects. Interracial Contact and Health Project, we are exploring the ways multiracial identity, interracial family formation, and living residential integrated spaces differentiates health status and health behaviors. Other related projects include explorations of multiracial families and how they differ from monoracial families.

How can we have effective dialogue on what race means today?

PSERC regularly hosts discussions on recent books on race called Dialogue Partners. Some recent books explored were Multiplication is for White people: Raising Expectations for other People’s Children, on the experience of teachers in disadvantaged classrooms conducted with Dr. Reagan Flowers. In addition, we discussed the book on race and sport entitled 40 Million Dollar slaves hosted by Bomani Jones (ESPN correspondent).

In the realm of Teaching, PSERC also seeks to invest in shaping how instructors discuss race in their courses. In June of 2013, PSERC convened “Having the Talk: Teaching Race in the Undergraduate Classroom” an all-day symposium on how to tackle on the most challenging topics in today’s classroom. The video of most sessions and program can be found on the website.



PSERC director and Kinder co-director are co-editing a student reader on race and ethnic relationship titled Unmaking Race and Ethnicity: A Student Reader aiming at enhancing the conversation about race by meeting students where they are.

What kind of tools can improve our efforts in understanding race today?

Finally, PSERC aims to be a resource to researchers interested in the complex ways race is lived through two activities currently under development. First, we have developed the Complex Race Data Profiles – an on-line resource for researchers interested in examining complex data issues in public data. Scholars and students interested in, for example, in studying skin color, how a person’s race may change over time, or how outsiders understand an individual’s race can locate data that has this information. PSERC is also working towards developing a data library of public data in Houston neighborhoods.


Jenifer Bratter, PSERC Director -