Update 2021: Family Businesses’ Contribution to the U.S. Economy

In 1996 and 2003, a groundbreaking study of the impact of family businesses on the U.S. economy and society was conducted that helped shape policy including elements of the Contract with America, changes in estate tax laws, and the inclusion of the idea of family business in many aspects of government policy and legislation. Led by a team of internationally renowned academic researchers, including one member of the original studies, the present report provides an update and further assessment of the economic impact of family businesses. Conceiving family businesses along a continuum of definitions, ranging from narrow, to medium, to broad, depending on the level of family influence on the business, the findings provide nuanced insights into their contributions to employment and economic activity. Regardless of the definition used, family businesses are key pillars of the U.S. economy and essential to economic and social prosperity. The insights provide decision makers, regulators and legislators with data, scientific arguments and justifications to craft policy and take measures in this remarkable time of change and economic and societal progress.


Obtaining reliable information on the number and structure of family businesses has been a considerable challenge to research and practice.

To help calculate new estimators of the distribution of family and non-family businesses in the overall U.S. firm population, one relevant dataset could be obtained (SDBC Dataset).

Since the SBDC dataset was not fully representative of the U.S. firm population and was already somewhat dated, a priori sampling was needed.



Family Businesses employ 83.3 million people, 59% of the private sector workforce

Washington, DC: Family Enterprise USA today announced the publication of a new research project that revisits an unprecedented study on the impact of family businesses’ contributions to the US economy, which was last released in 2003.

“This is a long overdue report that we are grateful to have been able to produce in collaboration with Torsten Pieper, at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) and his dedicated team of researchers, Franz W. Kellermanns, Ph.D., also of UNCC, and Joseph H. Astrachan, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at Kennesaw State University,” says Patricia Soldano, President of Family Enterprise USA (FEUSA), which provided primary funding for the research.