Disparity Study

In July of 2020, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) commissioned BBC Research & Consulting (BBC) to conduct a disparity study to assess whether minority- and woman-owned businesses face any barriers as part of Caltrans’s contracting processes. Information from the study, which is expected to be completed by June of 2021,  will help Caltrans assess its efforts to encourage the participation of minority- and woman-owned businesses in local contracts and help inform any refinements that Caltrans might make to its implementation of the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program.

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Study analyses. The disparity study will focus on construction; professional services; and goods and other services contracts and procurements that Caltrans awarded between January 1st, 2015 through December 31st, 2018. The crux of the disparity study will be to examine whether there are any disparities between:

  • The percentage of contract dollars that the Caltrans spent with minority- and woman-owned businesses during the study period (utilization); and
  • The percentage of contract dollars that minority- and woman-owned businesses might be expected to receive based on their availability to perform specific types and sizes of Caltrans contracts (availability).

The study will also examine other qualitative and quantitative information related to:

  • Legal considerations surrounding Caltrans’s implementation of the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program;
  • Marketplace conditions for minorities; women; and minority- and woman-owned businesses;
  • Contracting policies and business assistance programs that Caltrans currently has in place; and
  • Program measures for Caltrans to consider implementing to further encourage minority- and woman-owned business participation.
Methods. BBC will engage in the following disparity study tasks in the coming months:
  • Community meetings. The project team will conduct twelve community meetings in California – one for each Caltrans district. During the community meetings, BBC will present information about the disparity study; answer any questions; and solicit participants for any verbal or written testimony that they would like to share regarding their experiences working in the local marketplace. Please participate and make sure your insights are included as part of the study process!
  • Data collection. The project team will continue to work with Caltrans to collect data on contracts that they awarded during the study period and the vendors that participated in those contracts.
  • Data analysis. The project team will begin analyzing data that it collects from Caltrans. BBC will begin assessing the subindustries that account for the majority of state contracting; the geographical area that is most relevant to Caltrans contracting; and the percentage of total contract dollars that minority- and woman-owned businesses received on Caltrans prime contracts and subcontracts during the study period.
  • Availability surveys. The project team will begin conducting availability surveys with businesses in the relevant geographic market area that perform work that is relevant to state contracting. If we contact your business, please participate in the survey process to help ensure an accurate and comprehensive survey process!
  • In-depth interviews. The study team will begin conducting in-depth interviews with business owners and trade association representatives throughout the local marketplace. The interviews will provide the study team will detail information about marketplace conditions related to starting a business, trying to grow a business, working with local public agencies, and a variety of other topics.

Study schedule. BBC initiated the disparity study in July 2020 and will complete the study at the end of June 2021.

Key contacts. If you have any questions or comments regarding the disparity study, please contact:

Keith Herron
Staff Services Manager II
Office of Civil Rights
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
(t) (916) 639-6395
(e) Disparity.Study@dot.ca.gov

Alternatively, you can contact a member of the project team directly:

Kevin Williams
Managing Director BBC Research & Consulting
(t) 303-321-2547 
(e) KWilliams@bbcresearch.com

Wittney Skigen
Research Associate BBC Research & Consulting
(t) 303-321-2547
(e) WSkigen@bbcresearch.com

Study progress. Caltrans will provide regular updates about BBC’s progress on the disparity study throughout its course. Please check back periodically for those updates.

Project initiation. Caltrans and BBC initiated the disparity study in July 2020 with a series of meetings with various Caltrans departments and representatives. BBC met with Caltrans to introduce the study; answer questions; and begin the process of understanding contracting and vendor data that state agencies maintain.

Data collection. BBC has begun working with Caltrans staff to collect data on contracts that Caltrans awarded during the study period as well as information about the vendors that participated in those contracts.

The project team for the Caltrans Disparity Study includes five firms that possess expertise directly relevant to conducting the study in a manner that meets the highest industry and legal standards.

BBC Research & Consulting (BBC). BBC, which will serve as the prime consultant for the study, is a 50-year-old economic and diversity research firm based in Denver, Colorado. The firm has completed nearly 130 disparity studies for states, cities, transportation agencies, and other government organizations all across the country. BBC is also considered a national expert in helping organizations develop and refine their implementations of small and diverse business programs. The firm has provided expert testimony related to disparity studies and diverse business programs on several different occasions, most recently as part of the successful defense of the California Department of Transportation’s (Caltrans’) implementation of the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. For more information about BBC, please visit their website.

Primary contacts:

Kevin Williams
Managing Director
BBC Research & Consulting
(t) 303-321-2547, ext. 231
(e) KWilliams@bbcresearch.com

Wittney Skigen
Research Associate
BBC Research & Consulting
(t) 303-321-2547, ext. 235
(e) WSkigen@bbcresearch.com

Davis Research, LLC. Davis Research is a certified small business enterprise that has grown to be one of the leading survey data collection firms in the nation. The firm consistently delivers sophisticated telephone and web-based surveys with seamless programming, supremely qualified surveyors, and a customized look and feel. In addition, it offers professional computer-aided telephone interviewing services from its industry-best call centers. Davis Research has worked with BBC for the past 15 years on myriad research projects, including disparity studies for the City of Boston, Sound Transit, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

Action Research. Action Research is a DBE-certified research firm located in North San Diego County. The firm’s mission to bridge the gap between academic research and real-world applications. Action Research is an international leader in community-based social marketing and specializes in using state-of-the-art survey and research methodology to inform the development and evaluation of various community and social programs. Action Research possesses expertise in survey research, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and community engagement. In 2012, Action Research worked with SANDAG to conduct transit passenger surveys in order to measure passenger satisfaction before the Mid-City Rapid BRT route would be implemented in January 2013. Action Research completed similar work for SANDAG in 2009. The firm also worked with BBC to conduct the 2014 disparity studies for SANDAG and NCTD.

GCAP Services (GCAP). GCAP Services has developed and conducted training programs for DBE-related issues, including both live and on-line training workshops for DBE Program requirements following Western States Paving Company v. Washington State DOT. Edward Salcedo, President of GCAP is actively involved in various projects that require intimate understanding of the Federal DBE Program and the effectiveness of program measures.

Holland & Knight. Holland & Knight is a multi‐national law firm and has participated in more than 60 disparity studies with BBC. BBC employs Holland & Knight to develop the legal analysis and framework on disparity studies and to consult on legal issues. Holland & Knight also has extensive experience conducting in‐depth interviews; collecting and analyzing anecdotal evidence; and assessing potential DBE program measures. Holland & Knight develop the legal framework for the State of Indiana Disparity Study.

Luster National, Inc. Luster National, Inc. is a certified DBE headquartered in Mill Valley, CA that offers a variety of professional services including program, project, construction, quality, and risk management.  Luster also has expertise in diversity program development and compliance and is fully committed to providing other small disadvantaged businesses the opportunity to grow and be successful. They have ample experience in designing and implementing Diversity Programs to include compliance with governance mandates. Some of the studies and assessments Luster has performed include operational assessments, regional workforce studies, organizational assessments, contract compliance studies, and community stakeholder studies.

The project team is committed to engaging the public throughout the course of the California Department of Transportation Disparity Study. BBC will host various events to help the public understand the purpose of the study and to offer opportunities for the public to submit testimony and comments about their experiences working in the local marketplace and with Caltrans and local agencies. The events schedule will be updated regularly. Please check back periodically for those updates.

Community meetings. In partnership with Caltrans, BBC is hosting twelve community meetings throughout California. The first meetings will take place on November 12th (11:00 a.m.), 17th (5:30 p.m.), and 20th (11:00 a.m.), with more scheduled in early 2021. View the Public Engagement Sessions flyer for more information.

During each meeting, the project team will give a presentation describing the disparity study, including its purpose, methodology, and the study schedule. Following the presentation, attendees will be given the opportunity to ask questions and submit verbal or written testimony about their experiences working in the local marketplace and with Caltrans. Your comments will be treated confidentially. They will be integrated as part of the project team’s analyses of local marketplace conditions without identifying you as the source. Please participate and make sure your insights are included as part of the study process.

Q. What is a Disparity Study?

A disparity study examines whether there are differences between:

  • The percentage of dollars that minority- and woman-owned businesses received on an organization’s prime contracts and subcontracts during a particular time period (utilization); and
  • The percentage of dollars that those businesses would be expected to receive based on their availability to perform on the organization’s prime contracts and subcontracts (availability).

The comparison between the participation of minority- and woman-owned businesses in an organization’s contracting and the availability of those businesses to perform that work is referred to as a disparity analysis. In addition to utilization, availability, and disparity analyses, disparity studies typically examine other quantitative and qualitative information about:

  • Legal considerations surrounding the implementation of minority- and woman-owned business programs;
  • Conditions in the local marketplace for minorities; women; and minority- and woman-owned businesses;
  • Contracting practices and business assistance programs that the organization currently has in place; and
  • Potential program measures for consideration as part of the organization’s implementation of minority- and woman-owned business programs.

Q. When will the disparity study be completed?

The study will be completed in June 2021. 

Q. What types of contracts are being studied?

The disparity study will examine prime contracts and subcontracts that the State awarded from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2018. The study will examine construction; professional services; and goods and other services contracts.

Q. What will Caltrans do with information from the disparity study?

Information that the project team collects as a part of the California Department of Transportation Disparity Study will help inform Caltrans’ implementation of the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Among other information, the disparity study will provide:

  • An independent, objective review of minority- and woman-owned business participation in state prime contracts and subcontracts.
  • Information that is useful for setting overall annual aspirational goals for the participation of minority- and woman-owned businesses in state contracting; and
  • Insights about how Caltrans might improve contracting for local businesses and how it could better encourage the participation of minority- and woman-owned businesses in the future.

Q. Will the results of disparity study be made public?

Yes, the results of the disparity study will be made public at the end of the process.

Q. How can I participate in the disparity study process?

There are several ways in which you can participate in the California Department of Transportation Disparity Study:

  • Share your experiences working in the local marketplace by emailing the project team directly at CaltransDisparity@bbcresearch.com.
  • Join us for a community meeting where you can learn more about the disparity study process, ask questions, and submit testimony about your experiences working in the marketplace. For details about community meetings, click on the Events section of this page.
  • Respond to our requests to complete an availability survey. If you represent a business working in the local marketplace, you may be contacted as a part of the availability survey process. If you are contacted, please help the project team by participating!
  • Call us if you have any unanswered questions about the study. Our contact information is located under the Contact Project Team section of this page.

Caltrans will provide access to relevant disparity study notes, presentations, and reports below. Please check back periodically for updated documents throughout the course of the study.

Project initiation presentation. Caltrans and BBC initiated the California Department of Transportation Disparity Study in July 2020 with a series of meetings with various Caltrans departments and representatives. BBC met with Caltrans to introduce the study, answer questions, and begin the process of understanding contracting and vendor data that Caltrans maintains.

Please submit any comments that you may have about your experiences working in the local marketplace; working with Caltrans; or about the disparity study. Topic areas could include:

  • Conditions in the local marketplace, including any potential barriers that businesses face in being successful or growing;
  • Contracting opportunities with Caltrans or other government organizations;
  • Business assistance programs that Caltrans or other government organizations currently use;
  • Any recommendations for additional business assistance programs that Caltrans could consider implementing; or
  • The California Department of Transportation Disparity Study.

Your comments will be treated confidentially. They will be integrated as part of the project team’s analyses of local marketplace conditions without identifying you as the source.

E-mail your confidential comments directly to the project team at CaltransDisparity@bbcresearch.com or Disparity.Study@dot.ca.gov.

If you have any questions regarding the disparity study please contact one of the following individuals:

Keith Herron
Staff Services Manager II
Office of Civil Rights
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
(t) (916) 639-6395
(e) Disparity.Study@dot.ca.gov

Alternatively, you can contact a member of the project team directly:

Kevin Williams
Managing Director BBC Research & Consulting
(t) 303-321-2547 
(e) KWilliams@bbcresearch.com

Wittney Skigen
Research Associate BBC Research & Consulting
(t) 303-321-2547
(e) WSkigen@bbcresearch.com

You can also e-mail your questions directly to the project team at CaltransDisparity@bbcresearch.com.

The previous Disparity Study was conducted by BC Research & Consulting (BBC) in 2016. Find more information of the 2016 Disparity Study webpage.