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Economic Surveys in the Economic Census

As a part of, and in addition to, the quinquennial economic census, the Census Bureau conducts numerous surveys. These surveys help to present a clear picture of the many facets of the U.S. economy, and are used by planners and analysts in both the public and private sector. The following surveys are a small sample of those that are conducted during the economic census:

Survey of Business Owners

The Survey of Business Owners (SBO) measures the demographic characteristics of business owners across the economy of the United States. It is an amalgamation of two prior surveys: the Survey of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (SMOBE/SWOBE), and the Characteristics of Business Owners (CBO) survey, which had been discontinued in 1992.

The Survey of Minority-Owned Business Enterprises was initiated in 1969 as a special study of data from the 1967 economic census. In 1972, the survey became part of the economic census itself; it was sent out to almost every business owner enumerated that year. The Survey of Women-Owned Business Enterprises began in 1977, providing the same demographic information for female business owners that SMOBE provided for minorities.

The Census Bureau combined the two surveys with parts of the Charateristics of Business Owners survey in 2002, creating the Survey of Business Owners.

Commodity Flow Survey

The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) measures the movement of goods in the United States. It is a joint project of several federal agencies: the Census Bureau, the Department of Commerce, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and the Department of Transportation.

The Census Bureau conducted a separate commodity survey between 1963 and 1983, but in that latter year its results went unpublished. It canceled that survey altogether for 1987. In 1993, the Census Bureau and its federal partners revived the commodity survey as the new CFS. Since 1997, the survey has been conducted in years ending in "2" or "7," aligning it with the economic census.

The CFS samples about 100,000 companies, mailing out weekly questionnaires over a four-week reporting period. The survey is vital to transportation planning in the United States, providing a tool for assessing infrastructure needs and burgeoning safety issues.

Business Expenditures Survey

The Business Expenditures Survey (BES) estimates expenditures, depreciable assets, and operating costs for wholesale, retail, and some service companies. The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses BES data to benchmark several economic indicators, including its national income and product accounts. Other federal agencies also use BES data for cost and expenditures data.

The BES, a mail-out/mail-back survey that today samples almost 55,000 companies, began in 1958. Since that time, it has been conducted every five years in conjunction with the economic census. Prior to 1997, it was known as the Accounts and Expenditures Survey.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 08, 2021