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Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE)

While many people are familiar with the United States Census, which is taken every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution, there are actually over 100 different surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau each year. In this educational series, SBB Research Group summarizes key information from about these lesser-known—but highly important—surveys.

What is the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE)?

The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE) is a survey conducted annually through a partnership among the Census Bureau, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The information collected provides data on specific economic and demographic attributes of businesses and their owners, including gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status. Responses to the survey are mandatory based upon the authorization from Title 13 of the United States Code. The ASE is an example of a collaboration between public and private organizations; funding from the Kauffman Foundation and the MBDA enable the partnership to create new content, distribute the survey via mailings to a sample population, process the collected data, and produce new products to aid in relaying results to the public. The goal of this collaboration is to provide a more complete picture of business ownership in the United States.

How ASE Data is Used

The information collected through the ASE is used by leaders in government and industry, researchers, and entrepreneurs. The Small Business Administration and MBDA use information collected to help decide how to allocate program resources to businesses in need. Government agencies – from federal to local – use data collected to help plan, direct, and review programs that enable activities of disadvantaged groups. Researchers can identify long-term economic trends and demographic shifts. Business owners can harness the data to review their operations against their competition to determine growth potential.

Survey Eligibility

Businesses surveyed include all nonfarm related businesses that file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service as either a sole proprietorship, partnership, or any corporation that holds receipts greater than $1,000. The ASE surveys companies as a whole, rather than each individual establishment. Data collected from businesses and business owners are subsequently combined with data obtained from both the general economic census and administrative records.

The survey specifies business ownership as having 51% or more of the equity in the business, and categorizes results into the following:

  • Gender: Male; female; equally male/female

  • Ethnicity: Hispanic; non-Hispanic; equally Hispanic/non-Hispanic

  • Race: White; Black or African American; American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; some other race; minority; nonminority; equally minority/nonminority

  • Veteran Status: veteran; nonveteran; equally veteran/nonveteran

  • Publicly held and other companies that are not classified by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status

Frequency of Survey

The ASE is conducted every year for a reference period of three years, beginning with the reference year 2014. The ASE is a supplement to the Survey of Business Owners (SBO), which is conducted every five years. Prior-year estimates are revised each year.

General Topics in the Survey

The ASE generates its content by selecting questions from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners and by developing new modules each year with questions regarding current relevant economic topics. Examples of topics covered in the last several years include innovation, research and development, management practices, record-keeping practices, business banking relationships, business advice and planning, and regulations.

By gathering this information, the ASE provides valuable insights into the composition of American businesses.


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