Catholic University Law Review


Corporations, governments, and research institutions have learned to harness the power of data to make strategic and operational decisions that drive profitability, efficiency, and efficacy. Making meaningful use of an unprecedented and expanding volume of high velocity, complex and variable data sets—so called “big data—has also been heralded to help solve social problems like human trafficking, homelessness and climate change. Despite this data deluge, those engaged in the advancement of racial equity in workforce development operate in a data desert. Structural barriers to workplace opportunity and advancement perpetuate racialized gaps in wages and household wealth and result in poorer outcomes for workers of color across all measures of economic, physical, social, and emotional health. In the absence of reliable data and established metrics by which to measure progress toward eradicating those barriers, workplace racial inequity will continue to flourish.

This article proposes a framework for using data to advance racial equity across the workforce development ecosystem, a socio-economic community supported by organizations and individuals who educate, train, prepare, hire, place and support workers on the job. Based on findings from a year-long qualitative research study in Baltimore, few within the workforce ecosystem systematically collect, disaggregate, and analyze data to measure the impact of their policies, practices, and programs. One reason for this data desert is a reported fear of legal liability given Supreme Court jurisprudence restricting the consideration of race in higher educational admissions, hiring, and occupational advancement. This article seeks to clarify the legal legitimacy of a data analytics framework designed to generate meaningful and measurable outcomes for workers of color while holding all stakeholders accountable in the collective mission of dismantling racial inequity.