Research Program on Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Self-Employment

With support from JP Morgan Chase, the Cook Center is committed to the comprehensive development of a research program focused on racial and ethnic inequality and rates of self-employment. Of particular concern is the relationship between engagement in self-employment and intersectional racial and gender differences in wealth accumulation. During the course of this research program, careful attention will be given to the distinction between the oft-overlapping categories of self-employment and business ownership as well as the consequences for household net worth.

Research Questions

  1. How do patterns of self-employment vary across multiple racial and ethnic groups over the past 35 years? Here, instead of the conventional use of broad Census-based categories like Hispanic, Asian, or black, Cook Center researchers examine self-employment outcomes for specific national origin groups.
  2. Does wealth lead to self-employment or does self-employment lead to wealth? Wealth and self-employment are correlated; however, the direction of the relationship is unclear. By utilizing a longitudinal data set with excellent information about household net worth, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), Cook Center Researchers can explore whether self-employment is important to wealth-building or initial access to wealth is important to self-employment – or whether both causal patterns operate interdependently.
  3. How are factors like immigration, race, ethnicity, gender, wealth endowment and entrepreneurial activity related? Cook Center researchers will use original data from the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) survey to examine the relationships described above and below.
  4. How do patterns of small business engagement vary at the intersection of race/ethnicity and gender?
  5. What is the historical record of national policies that have inhibited or stifled business development among marginalized ethnic groups? Does reversal of those policies stimulate business development among marginalized groups or do additional steps need to be taken?
  6. What is the relationship between closing the racial wealth gap and increased black participation in small business activity?

Finally, Cook Center researchers aim to design an experiment that will enable the examination of the relationship between sharply reducing black-white wealth disparities and prospects for significant increases in black participation in self-employment. This phase of the project will involve development of a test for a Universal Adulthood Trust Fund. The scale of the experiment will be contingent upon the amount of resources provided for conducting the exercise. Cook Center researchers gauge that the minimum number of participants needed to produce a meaningful experiment is 250 young people.

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