Characteristics of Business Owners Survey

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Discontinued after 1992


To provide periodic data that describe and compare women, minority, and non-minority male business owners and their businesses. The United States Code, Titles 13 and 26, authorized this survey and provided for mandatory responses. The Minority Business Development Agency and the Small Business Administration partially funded the survey through 1992.


Owners and activities of businesses that file Internal Revenue Service tax forms for sole proprietorships or the self-employed (Form 1040, Schedule C), partnerships (Form 1065), or subchapter S corporations (Form 1120S); and operated in an industry covered by an economic census except farms and ranches, railroads, the postal service, membership organizations, private households, and governments (NAICS 01, 02, 40, 43, 86, 88 and 90-97).

Businesses that were at least one-half owned by women, Blacks, Hispanics, other minorities, and non-minority males are identified and reported separately.


Owners report data on personal characteristics and business acquisition, financing, and operations. Characteristics data include age, marital status, education, work experience, and veterans status. Business acquisition and financing data include method of acquiring ownership, and sources of capital. Business operations data include owner hours worked, assets and liabilities, net income, employee and customer profiles, and volume of exports.


Data are for activities taking place during the census calendar year; data collection follows the women- and minority-owned businesses surveys, beginning about 3 years after the census year, and continuing for about 6 months. Data were collected in 1982, 1987, and 1992, as part of the economic censuses. For 1977, a survey of women business owners characteristics was conducted.


A mail-out/mail-back survey of some 125,000 selected minority and non-minority owners, plus data for the surveyed businesses from economic census files. The survey was conducted as a follow-on to the 5-year economic censuses, and related women-and minority-owned businesses surveys. Firms were selected for the survey using a multi-stage sampling procedure.

In the first stage, firms were placed in one of 5 sample frames (Black-, Hispanic-, other minority-, women- and non-minority male-owned firms). Minority-and women-owned firms are identified from those preceding surveys; firms eligible for more than one frame are placed in a single frame using a specified hierarchical procedure. In the second stage, panels of businesses were selected from each frame using a stratified random sampling procedure; strata reflect major industry group, and receipts size class.

Survey forms are sent to all owners of each selected firm; responses are matched to economic censuses data about the firm (compiled for the women- and minority-owned businesses surveys); and the results are compiled and published by sex and race ownership group.


Characteristics of Business Owners reports provide summary data for each of the 5 ownership groups, and owner and business characteristics, about 4 years after the reference year. Data by ownership group include national summaries of firms and receipts by NAICS code and major industry group; national summaries by owner characteristic (such as age, education, and marital status) and business characteristic (such as size, organization, starting capital, and net income); and tabulations of the number of firms and total receipts by state.


The Minority Business Development Agency and Small Business Administration use these data to analyze the business ownership, status and trends by ownership group; help document the conditions of smaller business success; and develop policies and programs to promote women- and minority-owned businesses.

Trade associations use the data to study trends by industry and type of business ownership; private businesses use the data to analyze market opportunities and operating strengths and weaknesses; educators use them for instructional and research purposes; and the news media use them in a variety of general and special reports.


Provides the only source of comprehensive and comparative data on small business owners, their business financial and operating characteristics, and changes in women- and minority-owned versus non-minority male-owned business activities.


Survey of Businesses (1994 only)

Survey of Business Owners (formerly known as the Surveys of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises)

Characteristics of Business Owners Database




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