Philosopher Wins $1.8 Million Grant to Study Minority Entrepreneurship


Chris Surprenant, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Orleans (UNO) and director of the university’s Honors Program, has won an $1.8 million grant to “examine entrepreneurship patterns in urban communities and support would-be entrepreneurs, with specific focus on black communities, throughout the southeastern United States.”

Professor Surprenant works in moral and political philosophy, including subjects such as criminal justice, the ethics of punishment, incentives, and the connection between institutions and well-being.

A press release from UNO provides some background and details about the work that will be funded by the grant:

Surprenant said that social scientists who study entrepreneurial outcomes between various racial and ethnic groups often conclude not only that smaller percentages of black Americans engage in entrepreneurial activities, but also that they are less successful as entrepreneurs when compared to their non-black counterparts.

However, Surprenant argues that these statistics may not be reliable or at least may not tell the whole story. A significant amount of entrepreneurial activity in these communities may not be accounted for in existing data sets—activity such as selling homemade food, fixing cars, reselling goods, or watching other people’s children. Little research has been done to try to understand how much activity is taking place, in what areas, and where future opportunities may lie as a result.

“Entrepreneurship matters because it’s one of the best ways for people to escape poverty,” Surprenant said. “The challenge is trying to understand and document what is going on, both the obstacles and successes, in a way that would make possible outside investment, either from public or private sources.”

Surprenant’s project involves collaboration among an interdisciplinary group of academics and policy experts, including scholars at historically black colleges.

The grant is from the John Templeton Foundation.

Norman Wilfred Lewis, “La Puerto Del Sol”

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