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Business Dynamics Statistics of High Growth Firms (BDS-HG)

The Business Dynamics Statistics of U.S. High Growth Firms (BDS-HG) is an experimental data product extending the set of statistics published by the Business Dynamics Statistics program. BDS-HG is a component of a broader set of approaches aimed at better measuring the business dynamics of innovative firms (BDS-IF), described in greater detail in Goldschlag & Perlman (2017). BDS-HG provides annual measures of business dynamics by the firm growth rate distribution. Additional details on the computation of firm growth rates can be found on the Methodology page and Kim et al. (2024).

BDS-HG data tables show key economic data including the number of establishments, firms, and employment, job creation and destruction, and establishment openings and closings along the firm growth rate distribution. The BDS-HG series provides annual statistics for 1978 to 2021 by firm growth rates and a series of firm and establishment characteristics including size, age, industry, and geography. Below we summarize some of the findings of Kim et al. (2024), who provide a first-look at patterns in the BDS-HG tabulations.

The share of high-growth firms has been declining over time, shown in Figure 1. The share of firms that are high-growth fell from just under 20% in 1978 to less than 13% in 2020. This is in part due to the well documented decline in firm entry, but it also appears that fewer continuing firms are growing quickly. The percent of high-growth continuing firms fell from 4.8% in 1978 to 2% in 2020.


Figure 1. High-Growth Firm Share

High-Growth Firm Share

Source: Kim et al. (2024), Figure 3.


The BDS-HG tables allow us to focus on high-growth continuing firms of different ages. As shown in Figure 2, the share of high-growth firms has declined across the firm age distribution. About 10% of firms aged 1 to 5 in the mid-1980s were growing quickly. That share fell to under 8% in 2020. Similarly, for mature firms at least 11 years old, about 5% were high growth in the early 1990s, which fell to 3.4% in 2020. We see an increase in high-growth activity in 2021, the first year that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen in the BDS data.


Figure 2. High-Growth Firms and Firm Age

High-Growth Firms and Firm Age

Source: Kim et al. (2024), Figure 6.


The BDS-HG data are rich enough to allow us to look at both size and age together. Figure 3 shows the percent of average employment (denom). Holding size constant, a much larger share of employment among younger firms is associated high-growth firms. This is consistent with young firms being more dynamic and innovative. Holding age constant, however, there is less of a systematic relationship for young firms and a slight negative relationship between growth and size. For young firms, those ages 1 to 5, the smallest and largest size classes have the highest shares. For middle aged firms, those ages 6 to 10, and mature firms, those at least 11 years old, there is decline in the share of high-growth firms moving from small to large firms.


Figure 3. High-Growth Firms by Firm Size and Firm Age

High-Growth Firms by Firm Size and Firm Age

Source: Kim et al. (2024), Figure 8.


Finally, the BDS-HG tables show systematic patterns in high-growth firm activity across states. Since some states are much larger they naturally account for more high-growth firms. Figure 4 abstracts from this by showing the gap between a state’s share of all firms and its share of high-growth firms. If each state accounted for the same share of high-growth firms as it does all firms, then the graph would be flat, with all states falling on the zero line. Instead, we see that some states, such as Florida, California, and Texas account for a higher share of high-growth firms than they do of all firms. In other words, these state’s account for more high-growth firm activity than we would expect just given their
size. The size of each point in the graph is proportional to the state’s total employment, such that larger states have larger bubble sizes.


Figure 4. High-Growth Firms Across States

High-Growth Firms Across States

Source: Kim et al. (2024), Figure 10.


As shown by these figures, the BDS-HG tabulates provide a rich view of the firm growth rate distribution and allow policy makers and researchers to see the characteristics of high-growth firms in the U.S. economy.



Kim, J.D., Choi, J., Goldschlag, N., Haltiwanger, J. (2024). High-Growth Firms in the United States: Key Trends and New Data Opportunities. CES Discussion Paper Series, CES-WP-24-11, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.

Goldschlag, Nathan & Perlman, Elisabeth. (2017). Business Dynamic Statistics of Innovative Firms. CES Discussion Paper Series, CES-WP-17-72, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.


NEW: The 2021 BDS-High Growth covering the years 1978 to 2021 is now available! The 2021 release includes applicable changes and improvements reflected in the 2021 BDS Release.

Page Last Revised - March 15, 2024
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