Guidelines for Conducting a Disparity and Availability Study for the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

Since 1987, the U.S. DOT has required that their grantees implement a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program based on regulations found in 49 CFR Parts 23 and 26. The most current regulations provide states with an annual DBE goal-setting methodology. State DOTs must set DBE goals based on demonstrable evidence of the availability of "ready, willing and able" DBE firms. The regulations state that a disparity study can be used to demonstrate availability, but does not require its use. A recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, however, has made the use of a valid disparity/availability study a legal requirement to meet the standards expected by the Court. The ruling in the 9th Circuit as well as those in other Appeals Courts demonstrate a trend that a disparity study will be required to justify race-conscious elements of a state DBE program in response to constitutional challenges. This requirement has put state DOTs, especially western states located in the 9th Circuit, in a position that will require them to conduct disparity/availability studies at considerable expense. There are no guidelines or standards provided to states by the U.S. DOT on the elements of an effective disparity/availability study. Because of the unique needs of each state, there is a need to have a broad, overarching framework that can be used to guide the development and conduct of disparity/availability studies. In 2005, the AASHTO Board of Directors recognized the urgency of this issue when it passed a Resolution asking for guidance from the U.S. DOT. A disparity/availability study typically costs a state more than $500,000. This research will provide states with valuable information for initiating such studies and for determining what data should be collected. The objectives of this study are to (1) provide guidelines for state DOTs to determine when DBE disparity/availability studies are needed, (2) develop a model scope of work to be included in a request for proposals for disparity/availability studies, and (3) develop a model disparity/availability study design.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-76

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  USA  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC    20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  USA  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Hedges, Christopher

  • Performing Organizations:

    National Economic Research Associates, Incorporated

  • Principal Investigators:

    Wainwright, Jon

  • Start Date: 20070405
  • Actual Completion Date: 20090701
  • Source Data: RiP Project 11830

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01462928
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-76
  • Files: RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:13PM