Center on Race and Social Problems

Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in Public Contracting

Principal Investigator(s): 
January 1, 2003 to January 1, 2004

The purpose of the study was to determine why qualified and interested minority business enterprises (MBEs) were not receiving prime contracts from local governments in the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. We studied every prime contract opportunity of $25,000 or more by major local governments in the Pittsburgh area in the first four months of 2004. We found that local MBEs received just 3% of these prime contracts and 2% of prime contract spending primarily because the firms were not bidding. They submitted only 3% of prime contract bids. MBEs reported in phone interviews that they were not bidding because they lacked information on contract opportunities, lacked contacts to get information, and believed that discriminatory practices made bidding not worthwhile. A paper about the study has been submitted to a journal for publication.