A little over a year ago, as we were researching an IBM Center for the Business of Government report about lessons learned from the pandemic, we discovered, to our dismay, that there was 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, we were intrigued.
The Center, funded and launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative and incubated by Prosperity Now, has been gathering some pandemic-related information, but it goes far beyond that, making 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 executive director of the Center, Natalie Evans Harris, said at a 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
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 actions necessary to deal with a whole host of problems, like the fact that Black men have the highest unemployment rate of any race/gender group and that 21.9 percent of Black Americans had no Internet access in their homes in 2019, as compared with 15.2 percent of White individuals.
As things stand, the database is already very valuable, but as Harris said at the demo, “Keep in mind, that we’re just getting started. Please reach out.”
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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