Disparity Studies

Roy Wilkins Center Leads Disparity Study for the New Jersey Transit Corporation

The Roy Wilkins Center, with the assistance of New Jersey-based Management Interventions, facilitated several public meetings as part of the NJ TRANSIT's ongoing disparity study. Attendees were given an opportunity to provide comments about specific issues, experiences, concerns, and/or to make suggestions regarding the procurement process at NJ TRANSIT, and other state agencies.

The Roy Wilkins Center, regarded as one of the country's leading research centers specializing in objective analyses of racial and ethnic economic inequality, is currently gathering information to help determine the degree to which inequality affects contracting opportunities for socially and economically disadvantaged groups in the region. The results of this research will inform NJ TRANSIT's use of race conscious DBE goals to address specifically those socially disadvantaged groups for which there is evidence of discrimination in contracting opportunities.

About the Study
The Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs was awarded a $490,487 contract to conduct a “Disparity Study” on behalf of the New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ TRANSIT). The Disparity Study will help determine whether discrimination affects contracting opportunities for socially and economically disadvantaged groups in the region. The results will help guide New Jersey Transit’s use of race conscious Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goals. The objective is to address specifically those socially disadvantaged groups for which there is evidence of discrimination in contracting opportunities.



The study will be led by Samuel L. Myers, Jr., Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice and Director of the Wilkins Center. Myers is a national authority on the evaluation of race-conscious programs and the evaluation of race-neutral alternatives to race-conscious programs. His pioneering research on the evaluation of MBE and DBE programs and the use of race-neutral methods has appeared in Applied Economics Letters, Encyclopedia of African American Business History, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

This NJ TRANSIT study, called a 4th Generation Disparity Study, goes beyond comparing the availability and utilization of Small, Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (S/M/W/DBE). It will examine whether there are statistically significant disparities in contract award amounts, bid success rates, pre-qualification rates, and whether there are specific market barriers to full participation in the entire range of procurement and contracting activities of NJ TRANSIT. The study will detail the performance of race-neutral programs and examine whether the policies and practices of race-conscious programs result in an undue burden on firms that are not Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

The Wilkins Center has conducted 14 annual or triennial disadvantaged business enterprise goals reports and five disparity studies. In support of these studies, Myers has served as an expert witness in federal litigation: GEOD v. New Jersey Transit (2010) and Geyer v. MnDOT (2014). The Wilkins Center has also provided technical assistance related to disparity studies to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Essex County, New Jersey Transit, Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority, the City of Richmond, Midwest Minority Supplier Development Council, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce, and the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission. Dr. Myers speaks regularly before national organizations on methodological issues related to the proper conduct of a defensible disparity study. Recent presentations include: National Association of Minority Contractors; the National Forum for Black Public Administrators; and the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science.

 Examples of prior Disparity Studies and DBE Goals reports can be found here.

Businesses can submit written comments directly to njtstudy@umn.edu.

Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations & Social Justice

Humphrey School of Public Affairs
217 Humphrey Center
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

612-626-8093