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Senator Jeff Merkley with Lance Randall, BBAO executive director
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 09 November 2023

So they built one. The online Black Prosperity Dashboard launched this week, fulfilling the first of the Portland Metro Chamber's Black Economic Prosperity Policy priorities.

The tool takes into account that economic prosperity is inextricably linked to other factors like health, education opportunities and achievement, home ownership, housing cost burden and incarceration rates.

“What we want to do here is be the leaders in trying to shift some of the dynamics when it comes to Black economic prosperity here in Oregon, and lead the way so the rest of the country can see how it works,” Lance Randall, BBAO executive director, said.

Key Indicators

BBAO hired economic policy consultant firm ECONorthwest to build the platform, which compares data state-by-state in the categories of health, educational achievement, economic well-being and Black-owned businesses. The dashboard is supported by public data, census data and information supplied by the Black Wealth Data Center.

For health, the dashboard reports the percentage of the Black population by state that carries health insurance coverage, percentage of live births with low birthweight, teen birth rates, average life expectancy, rates of premature death, rates of homicide, drug overdose mortality and suicide rates.

Economic well-being is reported via poverty rates, child poverty rates, household income, rates of home ownership, home values, home loan applications denied by race and ethnicity, housing cost burden, broadband access and incarceration rates.

“I was not surprised that a lot of the information was going to be dismal,” Randall said.

“But I was pleasantly surprised in some areas I looked at that showed Black Oregonians are doing much better here in Oregon than they are in other states around the country.”

Often, the results are mixed: The dashboard shows that only 36% of Black Oregonians own their homes, compared to 67% of their White counterparts. However, those who do own property enjoy the seventh-highest home values in the country, emphasizing the wealth-building opportunities in real estate and the importance of home-buying readiness initiatives for BIPOC Oregonianshome-buying readiness initiatives for BIPOC Oregonians.

Business Concentration

BBAO identified 530 Black-owned businesses in the state, including sole proprietors and S-Corps, although the organization notes this may not be a complete list since the state’s business registry does not include information about owners’ race or ethnicity. The dashboard’s statewide map of such businesses provides a stark illustration: There is only one Black-owned business identified in all of Eastern Oregon. Meanwhile, BBAO found that 38% of Black-owned businesses in Oregon are based within three miles of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Randall also expressed concern that the majority of Black businesses are concentrated in only a few sectors, adding that he would like to see more Black business owners in the areas of healthcare and information technology.

“What I’m noticing is that when it comes to Black business owners, we have a tendency to focus on a very small set of opportunities” like construction, waste management and food services, he said.

“I believe what we’re going to have to do is we’ve got to help the Black community diversify their entrepreneurial desires – we have to help them look at other aspects and other segments of the business community they can go into. We have to make sure we introduce people to different sectors and let them begin to take a look into those sectors to find an opportunity where they can fit in and start a business, or purchase a business, or expand existing business.”

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