which the parent company was a large business or to nonprofit organizations or government agencies. A sample-based audit of the CCR and the FPDS could be a way to establish the reliability of the classification of women-owned small businesses versus other businesses in these two key databases on federal procurement. A match commissioned from the Census Bureau of CCR and FPDS records with the Survey of Women-Owned Business Enterprises could be another way of verifying the quality of the CCR and FPDS data.

Other data quality issues would depend on the nature of the analysis and the data sources used. For example, a study of financing barriers for women-owned businesses would require an assessment of sampling and nonsampling errors in such data sources as the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Small Business Finances.

CONCLUSION

We support the conclusion of the Panel on Methods for Assessing Discrimination (National Research Council, 2004:159) that “the use of statistical models, such as multiple regressions, to draw valid inferences about discriminatory behavior requires appropriate data and methods, coupled with a sufficient understanding of the process being studied to justify the necessary assumptions.” It is a challenging undertaking to analyze the possible role of discriminatory practices and behaviors at any point in the federal contracting process, let alone the chain from new business formation to registering and bidding to supply federal requirements.

We believe that in-depth research on disparities and possible discrimination in the contracting process could usefully inform policy making, but such research should be viewed as a long-term investment on the part of the SBA and other interested agencies. It requires development of a staged, prioritized research agenda; collection and evaluation of needed data from small-scale case studies, surveys, and administrative records; and sophisticated, careful analysis using best practices and state-of-the-art research methods.



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