Business Engagement and Compliance

DBE Disparity Study

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to frequently asked questions about conducting a disparity study.

What is a DBE?

A DBE is a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) program designed to ensure nondiscrimination in the award and administration of USDOT-assisted contracts in the USDOT's highway, transit and aviation financial-assistance programs. The purpose of the program is to help to create a level playing field on which DBE firms can compete fairly for contracting opportunities on USDOT-assisted contracts.

What is a disparity study?

A disparity study examines whether there are disparities between two factors:

  • The percentage of dollars that minority- and women-owned businesses received on an agency's prime contracts and subcontracts during a particular time period (referred to as a utilization analysis)
  • The percentage of dollars that those firms might be expected to receive based on their availability to perform on the agency's prime contracts and subcontracts (referred to as an availability analysis)

The comparison between an agency's utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses 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 examine other quantitative and qualitative information:

  • Legal considerations surrounding the implementation of the Federal DBE Program
  • Conditions in the local marketplace for minority- and women-owned businesses
  • Contracting practices and business-assistance programs that the agency currently has in place
  • Potential program measures for consideration as part of the agency's implementation of the Federal DBE Program

Why is a disparity study needed?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Western States Paving Co., Inc. v. Washington State Department of Transportation, 407 F.3d 983 (2005) and guidance from USDOT require that recipients of federal-aid transportation funds conduct disparity studies periodically (generally every three to five years) to determine if there is evidence of discrimination affecting their local transportation contracting marketplace. ADOT completed its last and only study in 2009. An updated disparity study will help ADOT refine and adapt its implementation of the Federal DBE Program to meet legal requirements. The study will also help ADOT develop and submit updated DBE triennial goals to FHWA, FTA and FAA.

Who will conduct the disparity study?

An independent team of consultant firms led by Keen Independent Research, which has conducted numerous disparity studies nationwide, will conduct the disparity study.

How long will the study take?

The study will be begin in February 2014 and will be completed within 15 to 18 months.

What projects/contracts will be included in the Study?

ADOT and its subrecipients' federally funded transportation planning, design, construction, transit and aviation contracts and grants that were procured from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2013, will be included in the study (including Local Public Agencies' and Metropolitan Planning Organizations' contracts).

What will ADOT do with information from the disparity study?

Information collected as a part of the disparity study will help ADOT with its implementation of the Federal DBE Program. Among other information, the disparity study will provide

  • an independent, objective review of minority- and women-owned business participation in ADOT's and its subrecipients' transportation-related prime contracts and subcontracts. That information will be valuable to ADOT leadership and to external groups that may be monitoring ADOT's contracting practices.
  • information that will be useful for setting overall triennial DBE goals for FHWA, FTA and FAA contracts.
  • information to help ADOT improve its implementation of the federal DBE Program.
  • insights on how ADOT and its subrecipients might reduce barriers to entry and improve opportunities for local, small, minority- or women-owned businesses to secure federally funded transportation contracts.

How can I participate in the disparity study process?

Throughout the process of the study, ADOT and Keen Independent will hold a series of public meetings to gain insights from businesses, stakeholder groups and the public about their experience with ADOT and its subrecipients; discuss the results of the study; and receive comments on the draft goal for overall DBE participation ADOT prepares based on the study. For times, dates and locations of public meetings, check the Participation Opportunities page.

Will the study results be made public?

Yes. Public comments will be solicited on the final draft report. The final report will be posted on the ADOT Business Engagement and Compliance Office section of the website for public viewing after the completion of the study.