Research Snapshot: New Grant Will Focus on Understanding the Perceptions of Access to Justice in Rural Communities

In an effort to better understand the unique challenges that rural communities face in the northland, Michele Statz, Ph.D., anthropologist of law and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Law and Social Sciences and Cultural Anthropology Programs of the National Science Foundation.

The three-year, multi-sited project will study the perceptions of rural inaccessibility to legal protection and fairness among low-income community members across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“The research is definitely anthropological, but it has a special connection to the mission of the Duluth Campus, and that we’re training physicians to work in these rural communities,” said Statz. “Civil legal needs are often inherently health related, so it’s important that we study these perspectives to inform and innovate policy, practice, and research methods.”

Statz will establish research sites on the Iron Range, along the North Shore, and central Wisconsin.

 “Early data demonstrates that people don’t see an attorney for the same reason they don’t see a doctor, whether there’s an issue of reliable transportation or if you think you can’t afford it – so it might just be a perception of inaccessibility,” Statz said. “I am determined to figure out where the disconnect is in the rural lawscape.”



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