• The Collaborative

Article: What Disparity Studies Have Shown

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Click here to view this article and accompanying video piece on the Shreveport Times website

Councilman Willie Bradford’s proposal to commission a disparity study in 2016’s budget working sessions was shot down by other council members. But Bradford said he plans to reintroduce the idea some time this year.

“Economic inclusion is not a priority,” Bradford said. “I am pushing for the disparity study because it will create a new climate in this city and hopefully start a new chapter.”

A disparity study is currently underway in New Orleans by Keen Independent Research, a firm that has experience with more than 150 studies, according to Ernest Stalberte, of the New Orleans-based business group The Collaborative.

“We’re trying to be the guardians of the study,” Stalberte said. “A large portion of the population is not getting equal opportunity to the work, and that impacts the community. As a community, quite honestly, we’ve been asleep at the wheel.”

Stalberte said Keen will produce not only an analysis of areas of discrimination but also “narrowly-tailored” recommendations on how to remedy the situation.

Similar disparity studies commissioned in South Carolina and Georgia showed the amount of contracting work awarded to minorities was drastically disproportionate to the percentage of minorities within the overall population.

Several studies about racial and socioeconomic disparities have already been conducted about the Shreveport-Bossier area, according to Lynn Nelson-Stevens of the United Way of Northwest Louisiana. Stevens said a biracial report was conducted in the 1980s, and the United Way also helped fund a study in 2003 called “Funding the Higher Ground.”

The 2003 study analyzed job and wealth distribution in Shreveport and Bossier City and Caddo, DeSoto, Webster and Bossier parishes and how to increase the capacity of the northwest Louisiana’s economy.

The study found the area’s economic base was “wide but not deep” and told the tale of “two Shreveport-Bossiers.”

“Today there are two Shreveport-Bossiers: one that enjoys a relatively high quality of life, and one that is characterized by dilapidated housing, few job opportunities, inadequate transportation and daycare and often failing schools,” the report stated. “There are many more ‘have nots’ in the black communities in Shreveport-Bossier than is true for whites locally or blacks nationally.”

Shreveport's Strategic Action Council was created as a result of that study. The group of business leaders meets monthly to discuss how to improve economic inclusion through education, healthcare, business development and outreach investments into low-income areas in the community.

But according to Bradford, not enough has been done by the city's FairShare program or other initiatives to root out underlying causes of disparity for minority businesses.

"It's not working, because blacks still receive less than 10 percent of city contracting," Bradford said.

The 2003 report concluded that if Shreveport-Bossier was to continue to thrive in the global technological economy of the 21st century, the region had to build capacity to not only generate and expand new enterprises but also seek out new economic sectors.

“Because blacks make up more than 48 percent of the regional population, these differences have very serious implications for the overall health of Northwest Louisiana,” the report stated. “If this gulf is not addressed, the intermediate and long-term costs for everyone in the region will be enormous.”

The report’s recommendations advised that minority businesses be granted access to “real markets” for business rather than more loans or training, but also cautioned that “no double standards with regard to managerial competence, quality of goods and services or timeliness of delivery” should exist when awarding contracting work.

This article was originally published by Lex Talamo on February 4, 2017 in the Shreveport Times

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