Family-ownership of firms isn't something that we deal with a lot at Kauffman, but it's something that the larger field considers a part of entrepreneurship. As such, when I got an email inquiry today through our website on the subject and data available on family-owned firms, I decided to take a look. I didn't go far because for this type of thing, in the United States, there is really only one great source, the Survey of Business Owners. It's done every five years in conjunction with the Economic Census. The most recent released data is from 2002. And what I found really fascinated me:
Respondent firms 16,687,541 total - 4,091,884 employer firms; 12,595,657 non-employer firms
- Family-owned, yes: 23.4 percent overall – 28.1 percent for employer firms; 21.9 percent for non-employers
- Family-owned, no: 9.4 percent overall– 18.3 percent for employer firms; 6.5 percent for non-employers
- Family-owned, only one owner: 63.6 percent overall - 51.0 percent for employer firms; 67.7 percent for non-employers
- Family-owned, item not reported: 4.2 percent overall - 4.1 percent for employer firms; 4.2 percent for non-employers
Source: Table 4. http://www.census.gov/prod/ec02/sb0200cscb.pdf
I'm still getting used to tables, etc. on the blog so apologies for the clunkiness here, but the basic message I wanted to show was that it's really interesting that a majority of firms in the United States are single-owner firms and yet these firms predominantly respond that they are "family-owned". By my reading of the above, 87 percent of firms responded that they were family-owned. Even close to 80 percent of employer firms reported being family-owned.