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The Survey of Business Owners (SBO) provides the only comprehensive, regularly collected source of information on selected economic and demographic characteristics for businesses and business owners by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status. Title 13 of the United States Code authorizes this survey and provides for mandatory responses.


Included are all nonfarm businesses filing Internal Revenue Service tax forms as individual proprietorships, partnerships, or any type of corporation, and with receipts of $1,000 or more. The SBO covers both firms with paid employees and firms with no paid employees. The SBO is conducted on a company or firm basis rather than an establishment basis. A company or firm is a business consisting of one or more domestic establishments that the reporting firm specified under its ownership or control.

The data are compiled by combining data collected from businesses and business owners in the SBO with data collected from the main economic census and administrative records.

Business ownership is defined as having 51 percent or more of the stock or equity in the business and is categorized by:

  • Gender: Male; female; or equally male/female
  • Ethnicity: Hispanic; equally Hispanic/non-Hispanic; non-Hispanic
  • Race: White; Black or African American; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; some other race; minority; equally minority/nonminority; nonminority
  • Veteran status: Veteran; equally veteran/nonveteran; nonveteran
  • Publicly held and other firms not classifiable by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status

Firms equally male-/female-owned, equally minority-/nonminority-owned, and equally veteran-/nonveteran-owned are counted and tabulated as separate categories.

Businesses can be tabulated in more than one racial group. This can result because:

  • The sole owner reports more than one race;
  • The majority owner was reported to be of more than one race;
  • A majority combination of owners was reported to be of more than one race.

The detail may not add to the total or subgroup total because a Hispanic firm may be of any race, and because a firm can be tabulated in more than one racial group.

The sum of the subgroup detail for Hispanics, Asians, and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders may not add to the total if no one subgroup owns a majority of the firm, but a combination of these subgroups owns a majority. In this case, the firm is included in the Hispanic, Asian, or Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander estimate, but is not included in any of the subgroup estimates.


Estimates include the number of employer and nonemployer firms, sales and receipts, annual payroll, and employment. Data aggregates are presented by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status for the United States by 2012 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), states, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, counties, places, and employment and receipts size.

The SBO covers 20 NAICS industries, except those classified as:

  • Crop and Animal Production (NAICS 111, 112)
  • Rail Transportation (NAICS 482)
  • Postal Service (NAICS 491)
  • Monetary Authorities-Central Bank (NAICS 521)
  • Funds, Trusts, and Other Financial Vehicles (NAICS 525)
  • Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations(NAICS 813)
  • Private Households (NAICS 814)
  • Public Administration (NAICS 92)


Data have been collected every 5 years since 1972, for years ending in "2" and "7" as part of the economic census. The program began as a special project for minority-owned businesses in 1969 and was incorporated into the economic census in 1972 along with the Survey of Women-Owned Businesses.


To design the SBO sample, the Census Bureau uses the following sources of information to estimate the probability that a business is minority- or women-owned:

  • Administrative data from the Social Security Administration.
  • Lists of minority- and women-owned businesses published in syndicated magazines, located on the Internet, or disseminated by trade or special interest groups.
  • Word strings in the company name indicating possible minority ownership.
  • Racial distributions for various state-industry classes and racial distributions for various ZIP Codes.
  • Gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status responses of a single-owner business to a previous SBO or to the 2010 Decennial Census.

These probabilities are then used to place each firm in the SBO universe in one of nine frames for sampling:

  • American Indian
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic
  • Non-Hispanic white men
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • Other (a different race was supplied as a write-in to another source)
  • Publicly owned
  • Women

The SBO universe is stratified by state, industry, frame, and whether the company has paid employees. The Census Bureau selects large companies, including those operating in more than one state, with certainty. These companies are selected based on volume of sales, payroll, or number of paid employees. All certainty cases are sure to be selected and represent only themselves (i.e., have a selection probability of one and a sampling weight of one). The certainty cutoffs vary by sampling stratum, and each stratum is sampled at varying rates, depending on the number of firms in a particular industry in a particular state. The remaining universe is subjected to stratified systematic random sampling.


The SBO data sets include all businesses (minority-, nonminority-, equally minority-/nonminority-owned; female-, male-, equally male-/female-owned; veteran-, nonveteran-, equally veteran-/nonveteran-owned; and publicly held companies and other businesses whose ownership cannot be classified by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status) and are presented by industry classifications and/or geographic area (states, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, counties, and corporate municipalities (places) including cities, towns, townships, villages, and boroughs) and size of firm (employment and receipts).

The SBO data sets also include the Characteristics of Businesses (CB) and the Characteristics of Business Owners (CBO), which present additional demographic and economic information about business owners and their business activities.


The SBO data are available on the Census Bureau's Web site at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/sbo/data.html. Data.census.gov, the Census Bureau's online, self-service data access tool, allows selective retrieval and downloading of the SBO 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.

Special Features

The SBO provides the only source of detailed and comprehensive data on the status, nature, and scope of women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses.

Page Last Revised - November 22, 2021
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