Skip to main content


The City seeks to ensure equity in its contracting activities. The City's Small Business Enterprise Program promotes use of certified small businesses on public works contracts. The City wants to know whether this program is effective in assisting minority- and women-owned firms or if other programs are needed. The study will help the City answer those questions.


The ability of cities to address any discrimination in contracting is limited by the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Company. The U.S. Supreme Court provided guidance for when a minority business enterprise program might be legally defensible. One reason for conducting the City of Madison disparity study is to help the City determine whether any additional contracting programs that focus on minority- and women-owned firms are needed and supportable.

Study Research Methods

A disparity study calculates the share of contract dollars going to minority- and women-owned firms and the share going to other businesses. A "disparity" exists if the share for minority- and women-owned businesses is below what might be expected based on their availability to perform that work. The City of Madison study focuses on City public works prime contracts and subcontracts.

The study team is also collecting information about the experiences of minorities and women in the Madison construction industry. These results will help the City assess whether there is a level playing field for minorities and women in the industry.

David Keen, Principal at Keen Independent Research, has directed disparity studies for more than 70 other cities, states and other agencies. Keen Independent Research is performing the Madison study from its offices in Denver, Madison and Wickenburg, Arizona.