Barriers and Bridges: An Action Plan for Overcoming Obstacles and Unlocking Opportunities for African American Men in Pittsburgh

by Christopher Lowenstein; Margaret C. Simms; Marla McDaniel; Saunji D. Fyffe

Oct 1, 2015

Among the region's residents, Pittsburgh's African-American men have historically and disproportionately faced unprecedented barriers to economic opportunities. This study focuses on structural barriers that contribute to persistent racial disparities in the Pittsburgh region. Structural barriers are obstacles that collectively affect a group disproportionately and perpetuate or maintain stark disparities in outcomes. Structural barriers can be policies, practices, and other norms that favor an advantaged group while systematically disadvantaging a marginalized group. A community touched by race-based structural barriers can be identified by the racial and economic stratification of its residents; Pittsburgh, like many large cities in the United States, fits that description.
  • While African Americans make up 11.4 percent of men ages 18-64 in Pittsburgh, they are 5.4 percent of the region's adult male workforce.
  • If Pittsburgh truly wants to become a livable and sustainable metropolis, community leaders and stakeholders must address the structural barriers that continue to reproduce disparity.
  • To reduce barriers and transform Pittsburgh into a sustainable city, planners could improve conditions by creating resources that enhance men's skills and making chances for economic advancement more affordable and accessible.
  • Funders should consider increasing operating support for community organizations in addition to providing grant support for effective programs or projects.
  • Technology is an area where African-American and other minority business owners may need better connections to transform their innovative ideas into successful business ventures.
  • The tools to dismantle barriers include consciously examining the extent of disparity in the system, institution, or organization and evaluating entry criteria — including outreach, recruitment, and application processes and procedures.