Out of Control Policy Blog

Starting a Business in Inner City Neighborhoods

The Center for the American Experiment has just published a useful and insightful set of essays on inner-city entrepreneurship. The symposium was motivated by the following question: What would it take for you to start up or expand a business in a low-income neighborhood?

Mitch Pearlstein, the center's executive director, asked 20 people with insight into this problem to answer the question in short, pithy responses. According to introduction,

Why this new American Experiment symposium? For a variety of reasons, starting with the assumption that unless commerce in a neighborhood—or at least in its vicinity—is vibrant, chances are little else will be either, including income levels, public safety, and graduation rates, to pick just three gauges. If one were to focus more specifically on families, it’s impossible to imagine how marriage can be re-institutionalized in many places unless many more men are economically successful enough, causing many more women (in sociologist William Julius Wilson’s famous locution) to view them as "marriageable." Completing the circle, imagining good data and good news is tantamount to impossible if large numbers of men (and women and children) continue living in communities largely bereft of going and growing businesses. 

The symposium includes essays from 20 business owners & operators, analysts, and activists (including yours truly). They are an easy read, and provide unusual insight into the problems and challenges faced by inner-city entrepreneurs.

Kudos to Mitch for putting such an eclectic and useful set of papers together!

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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