Search By Category


Researchers Connect College Students with Black-Owned Businesses
Researchers Connect College Students with Black-Owned Businesses

Michael Hamilton, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Business Analytics and Operations, Katz Graduate School of Business

Key Findings: Motivated by the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black-owned businesses, the research team began working with community organizations to try and identify ways the students could support Black-owned businesses in the Pittsburgh area. By surveying both sides of the market (college students and local Black-owned businesses), researchers identified that, while they wanted to be connected, each side of the market lacked knowledge about the other. They designed and implemented an online platform, 412Connect, to connect Pittsburgh students and local Black-owned businesses.

Recommendation: The site encourages students to learn more about businesses by answering trivia questions about them and following them on social media. The research team incentivized this engagement via the use of badges. Thresholds for when to award badges are determined by a novel badge model, and the order in which businesses are presented to students is decided by a policy that promotes equity across impressions while allowing for testing of the impact of consumer preferences for business type in an online for-good setting.

Researchers: Michael Hamilton; Alex DiChristofano, PhD student in Computational & Data Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis; Sera Linardi, Associate Professor of Economics at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA); Mara F. McCloud, graduate of GSPIA; Ivy Chang, undergraduate in the College of Business Administration and Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences

Methodology: Pittsburgh Black business owners and Pitt undergraduate and graduate students were surveyed during the winter of 2020-21 in conjunction with discussions with community partners.

Additional Details:

This research won the New Horizons Award at the 2021 Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization (EAAMO ’21).

This project was conceived of and built by volunteer Pitt students and faculty. If you would like to work on analytical problems for social good, please join us at Grief to Action. See for more information.