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Social scientists frequently observe important differences in entrepreneurial outcomes between members of different racial or ethnic groups. For black Americans, not only are there fewer individuals engaged in entrepreneurial activity (as a percentage basis), but there is a negative divergence in outcomes for these individuals as compared to the entrepreneurial outcomes for white Americans or members of other minority groups.

Suggestions for the cause of this two-fold problem—fewer entrepreneurs and less-successful entrepreneurs—run the gamut from structural racism, to defects in primary and secondary education that make it less likely to develop entrepreneurial skills, to a fundamentally different approach to wealth accumulation and management within communities of black Americans. But thus far no substantial qualitative or quantitative research has been done to try to identify the primary cause or causes of this phenomenon.

Our three-year project will conduct quantitative and qualitative research to better understand the challenges to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking faced by black Americans living in urban environments throughout the southeastern United States. We will focus on three groups--high school students, owners of established and successful businesses, and would-be entrepreneurs--to better understand and document these challenges.

By working with existing partners in the academic, business, legal, and public policy communities, as well as creating new opportunities for community involvement and engagement, the project aims to better understand the peculiar barriers to success faced by these individuals, as well as how these individuals believe those barriers are most likely to be overcome. This work will open up new avenues for research and community engagement on these ideas central to human flourishing.