A little over two years ago, as we were researching an IBM Center for the Business of Government report about lessons learned from the pandemic, we were confronted with an unfortunate lack of data about the Black population of the United States. As we wrote in the report, co-authored by Don Kettl, “Many states were slow in measuring the disease’s spread among Black Americans, for example, and by mid-summer 2021 some states still did not keep track of the racial background of those who died from the virus.”
For obvious reasons – most notably the fact that the Black population was disproportionately hit by COVID – this absence of disaggregated data was particularly troubling to us, as it has been in a number of other areas of inquiry. As a result, when we first heard about the existence of a new project called the Black Wealth Data Center, back in September of 2022, we were intrigued, and wrote a B&G Report about it then. It seemed appropriate for this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to revisit and update that column.
The Center, which was funded and launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative and incubated by Prosperity Now, makes an important contribution to a world in which data is central to solving problems. Specifically, according to its website, the Center was created to “help address the problem of insufficient and inaccessible data on the topic of Black Wealth.”
As the then executive director of the Center, Natalie Evans Harris, said at the demo of the Center’s data-rich website, “You need data that you can rely on, but unfortunately it is often data that is incomplete. . . We want to make sure that . . . government, journalists, non-profits and philanthropies have the data you need in a way that you can rely on it.”
The website and data base, which you can find here, explores measures and/or indicators of:
Net worth at a national level
Business ownership at a national and state level
Education at a national level
Employment at a national level
Homeownership at a national level
Population data at a local level
Expected annual loss due to natural hazards
FDIC Active Institutions per 100,000 people
The Center is exclusively a source of information – not a think tank intended to help solve the problems it uncovers. But the Center is actively working to provide actionable data that can help others to take the steps necessary to deal with a whole host of problems, like the fact that Black people have the highest unemployment rate of any race/gender group and that nationwide, the median interest rate paid by the Black population for home mortgages is 4.9 percent, compared with 4.6 percent for White individuals.
As things stand, the database is very valuable, but it continues to grow as time goes on.
We’d suggest that readers of this B&G Report take a look at the website and the database and provide your feedback about the site by clicking here.
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