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Black entrepreneurship expands

WASHINGTON -- Black-owned businesses are among the fastest-growing segments of the American economy, the government said yesterday.

The number of black-owned businesses grew by 45 percent from 1997 to 2002, more than four times the national rate for all businesses, according to a report by the US Census Bureau. And revenues from black-owned businesses increased by 25 percent during the period, to about $89 billion.

But nearly all such businesses are small -- 92 percent had no employees other than the owners. By comparison, about three-fourths of all US businesses had no employees.

''We do have challenges, we are making progress," said Ronald Langston, director of the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency. ''This is the real challenge: to move these smaller businesses into the next step of growth."

Black entrepreneurs owned 1.2 million companies in 2002, or about 5 percent of all nonfarm businesses in the United States. Hispanics owned about 7 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Blacks made up about 12 percent of the population in 2002.

Blacks as a group still trail whites in education and income, but they have made gains.

In 1950, only 14 percent of black adults had high school diplomas, compared with 36 percent of whites, according to the Census Bureau. The gap narrowed by 2000, when 72 percent of black adults had at least a high school diploma, compared with 84 percent of whites.

''We've got the first generation of significantly educated people," said Harry Alford, president and chief executive of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. ''There's a black middle class like never before."

The report is based on administrative records and a survey of 2.4 million businesses.

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