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New Dashboard Shows Socioeconomic Status of Black Oregonians

The Black Economic Prosperity Dashboard includes data on population, health, education, economic well-being and business ownership that can be used to better address racial wealth gaps in the state.

An aerial view of downtown Portland, Ore.
An aerial view of downtown Portland, Ore., on Mon., March 27, 2023. (Dave Killen/
The Black Business Association of Oregon this week launched a new tool to access data on the socioeconomic status of Black Oregonians.

The Black Economic Prosperity Dashboard, which can be viewed at, draws on existing federal, public and proprietary data. It includes data across five topics: population, health, education, economic well-being and business ownership.

Organizers say the tool paints a holistic picture of the variations that exist among communities, which can help inform policies and practices that can address racial wealth gaps in Oregon.

Andrew Colas, president of Colas Construction and vice chair of the Black Business Association of Oregon, said the idea is to provide baseline data that could be used by the city, its partners and the broader community to see whether policies and programs meant to advance wealth equality are having the intended impact, and adjust course as needed.

“If you don’t have a baseline, you can’t measure successes,” Colas said during a presentation Thursday. “If there is no metric to measure it against, you’re not making progress.”

The business association hired economic policy consultant firm ECONorthwest in 2022 to develop the data dashboard. In addition to government and public data, the firm obtained additional data from outside organizations including the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, a national program that built the Black Wealth Data Center.

The dashboard, for example, shows how Black Oregonians fare across multiple indicators of good health, including birthweight, teen pregnancy, life expectancy, homicide rates, drug overdose mortality and suicide rates. The data shows that life expectancy for Black residents is nearly three years shorter than white Oregonians, and homicide rates are more than five times as high.

To measure economic well-being, the tool tracks indicators like poverty, homeownership, household income, housing cost burden, home loans, broadband access and incarceration rates. The data, pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, reveal that one out of five Black residents in Oregon lives in poverty, and that the median income for Black households is only two-thirds of that of white households. It also shows that while 67 percent of white residents own a home, only 36 percent of Black Oregonians do.

John Tapogna, senior policy advisor at ECONorthwest, said during a presentation Thursday that the sobering picture that emerges from the dashboard is meant not to discourage but to galvanize.

“I think there’s going to be some real concerns when you look at this data,” Tapogna said. “But that is the starting point of a conversation that could lead us on to a very great new direction.”

The dashboard also shows a snapshot of business ownership trends with maps of Black-owned businesses in Portland and across the state based on data collected by the Black Business Association of Oregon.

The organization identified 530 Black-owned businesses across the state and found that they were highly concentrated in Portland and the Willamette Valley. For example, the map shows that nearly 40 percent of Black-owned businesses in Portland are located within three miles of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Lance Randall, executive director of the Black Business Association of Oregon, said the map doesn’t capture all the Black-owned businesses in the state. He said gathering that data was one of the biggest challenges, as the state doesn’t require business owners to list their race or ethnicity when registering their businesses.

Randall said he wanted to map Black-owned businesses to “get a clearer picture of where they are in the state and how we can help them, and then we will work with local municipal governments to serve those Black-owned businesses.” He said the goal is to address systemic underinvestment in Black communities.

“Building up the Black businesses will build Black communities, which in turn will help the entire economy,” Randall said. “I want to see more Black-owned businesses that are writing checks, hiring people, creating more jobs, paying more taxes to support our tax base.”

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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