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Survey of Business Owners (SBO)

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Why does the government take this survey?

    The SBO is part of the Economic Census program, which the Census Bureau is required by law to conduct every 5 years (Title 13 of the United States Code), for years ending in "2" and "7." The Census Bureau combines data from the SBO with data from other economic surveys, economic censuses, and administrative records and presents them in American FactFinder, the Census Bureau's online, self-service data access tool. The published data include number of firms (both firms with paid employees and firms with no paid employees), sales and receipts, number of paid employees, and annual payroll; they are presented by kind of business, geographic area, and size of firm (employment and receipts). These results will also contain summary statistics on the composition of businesses in the United States by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status. Additional demographic and economic characteristics of business owners and their businesses will be included, such as: owner's age, education level, hours worked, and primary function in the business; family- and home-based businesses; types of customers and workers; sources of financing for start-up, expansion, or capital improvements; outsourcing; use of Internet and e-commerce; and employer-paid benefits.

  2. Why ask now about 2007?

    The SBO requests 2007 information now because the survey sample cannot be selected until all business income tax returns are available for 2007. The use of tax records delays the survey start until records are available, but reduces the number of survey questions and survey costs.

  3. Why ask about gender, ethnicity, and race?

    The SBO is the only source of statistics about the demographic characteristics of the owners of approximately 26 million American businesses, including their business organizations and activities. SBO statistics have been produced every 5 years since 1972 and have proven useful in helping to understand changes taking place in our dynamic and growing economy. SBO results have helped to profile census-to-census changes in business performance, highlight conditions of business success and failure, and compare minority-/nonminority- and women-/men-owned businesses.

  4. Who establishes the ethnicity and race categories listed on the form?

    The ethnicity and race categories listed on the SBO questionnaire are consistent with those mandated by the Office of Management and Budget. These standards were developed by both the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Federal Government.

    The Hispanic or Latino origin category is:

    • A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

    The race categories are:

    • American Indian or Alaska Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.

    • Asian. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

    • Black or African American. A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa, including those who consider themselves to be "Haitian."

    • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

    • White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.

    • Some other race. This category includes all other responses not included in the "American Indian or Alaska Native," "Asian," "Black or African American," "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander," and "White" race categories described above.

  5. Who uses the survey data?

    Government program officials, industry organization leaders, economic and social analysts, and business entrepreneurs routinely use the SBO statistics. Examples of data use include those by:

    • The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to assess business assistance needs and allocate available program resources.

    • Local government commissions on small and disadvantaged businesses to establish and evaluate contract procurement practices.

    • Federal, state, and local government agencies as a framework for planning, directing, and assessing programs that promote the activities of disadvantaged groups.

    • A national women-owned business trade association to assess women-owned businesses by industry and area and to educate other industry associations, corporations, and government entities.

    • Consultants and researchers to analyze long-term economic and demographic shifts, and differences in ownership and performance among geographic areas.

    • Individual business owners to analyze their operations in comparison to similar firms, compute their market share, and assess their growth and future prospects.

  6. Who was eligible for this survey?

    Businesses were eligible to be selected for this survey if they reported any business activity on any one of the following 2007 Internal Revenue Service tax forms:

    • 1040 (Schedule C), "Profit or Loss from Business" (Sole Proprietorship). Many self-employed individuals do not consider the activity reported on their Schedule C to be an actual business (for example, babysitter, sales representative, construction contractor, real estate agent, and so forth). Any activity reported on Form 1040 (Schedule C) meets the definition of a business for purposes of this survey.

    • 1065, "U.S. Return of Partnership Income"

    • any one of the 1120 corporation tax forms

    • 941, "Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return"

    • 944, "Employer's Annual Federal Tax Return"

  7. What existing data can I get from the SBO and/or the Economic Census?

    You can use the following Census Bureau web sites to access the current SBO and the Economic Census results:

    • contains: geographic profiles and complete reports from the SBO; data that include number of firms, sales and receipts, number of employees, and annual payroll.

    • contains: complete details about the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and other topics; geographic profiles and complete reports from the 2007 Economic Census.

    • contains: detailed statistics from the 2007 Economic Census and Surveys; data sets by geography, industry/product, or data item.

    The 2002 SBO results are available on the Census Bureau's Web site at and through American FactFinder (AFF), the Census Bureau's online, self-service data access tool.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Survey of Business Owners | (301) 763-3316 | Last Revised: January 05, 2015