Financing Patterns and Credit Market Experiences: A Comparison by Race and Ethnicity for U.S. Employer Firms
Alicia Robb, Ph.D., February 2018
This study examines racial and ethnic differences in financing patterns, access to capital, and credit market experiences among U.S. employer firms. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE), this report sheds light on the ongoing financing challenges facing minority entrepreneurs nearly a decade after the financial crisis. In particular, it highlights differences in financing amounts, financing sources, attempted funding relationships, avoidance of financing, and the impact of financing on firm profitability and closure across ethnic and racial demographics. This report was prepared for the Office of Advocacy by Alicia Robb, Ph.D., under contract number SBAHQ-16-M-0175.
Disparities in business ownership by race and ethnicity
The Census data analyzed in this report indicate that Hispanic and Black Americans are underrepresented in business ownership compared with their shares of the general population. Despite representing 17.6 and 13.2 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics and African Americans own only 5.8 and 2.1 percent of employer businesses, respectively. In contrast, Whites and Asians are overrepresented in business ownership. While Whites make up 61.6 percent of the U.S. population, they own 86 percent of employer firms. Asians make up 5.6 percent of the U.S. population but own nearly 10 percent of U.S. employer firms.
Sources and amounts of startup capital
The ASE asks business owners to identify the source and amount of capital used to start or acquire their business. As shown in Figure 1, the owner’s personal or family savings was the most commonly relied upon source of startup capital, with 73 percent of Asians, 72 percent of Hispanics, 70 percent of Blacks or African Americans, and 65 percent of Whites relying on this source. The next most common source of startup financing came from business loans made by banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions, with 18 percent of all respondents stating that they used this source of capital. While nearly 19 percent of White business owners started their business with a business loan from a bank or other financial institution, only 15.2 percent of Black or African American business owners and 12.9 percent of Hispanic business owners relied on this source of financing. Importantly, Black and Hispanic business owners were more likely to rely on personal credit cards carrying balances, a more expensive financing option than a traditional bank loan, than other groups. The data indicate that nearly 18 percent of Black or African American business owners and nearly 15 percent of Hispanic business owners relied on personal credit cards, compared to 10.3 percent of all firms.
This study also identified striking differences across racial and ethnic groups with respect to the amount of capital used by entrepreneurs to start their businesses. As shown in Figure 2, Black and Hispanic business owners reported starting their businesses with less capital than their White and Asian counterparts. While 14.9 percent of all firms reported using less than $5,000 to start or acquire their business, 19 percent of Black or African American business owners and 16 percent of Hispanic business owners reported startup financing of less than $5,000.
New funding relationships and unmet credit needs
The ASE data show that minority business owners, particularly Blacks or African Americans and Hispanics, were more likely than other groups to attempt to establish new funding relationships in 2014. They were also most likely to report unmet credit needs. Among all firms, the most commonly pursued new funding relationship was with banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions (13.1 percent of all firms). Notably, 17.8 percent of Black or African American business owners and 14.6 percent of Hispanic business owners attempted to establish a new relationship with a bank, compared to 13.2 percent of Whites and 12.2 percent of Asians. While 10.5 percent of all firms attempted to secure a credit card as a new source of funding, 15.8 percent of both Black and Hispanic business owners pursued this funding source (compared to 13 percent of Asians and just over 10 percent of Whites).
In addition to being more likely to seek out multiple new funding sources in 2014, Blacks or African Americans and Hispanics were also more likely to demonstrate unmet credit needs than other groups (based on the percent of firms who established new funding relationships but did not receive the full amount of capital sought). As shown in Figure 3, African Americans were most likely to report unmet credit needs across every financing category. Most notably, 53 percent of Black or African American business owners reported not receiving the full amount requested from banks and other financial institutions, compared to 24.5 percent of White business owners.
Avoidance of financing and reasons why
This study also examined the extent to which business owners chose not to apply for financing despite needing additional funds at some point in 2014. Among all firms, 9.6 percent of business owners indicated that they needed additional funds but chose not to apply. However, responses to this question varied dramatically by race and ethnicity, with about 26 percent of Black or African American business owners and 15 percent of Hispanic business owners saying they did not apply for financing despite needing the funds. Only 9.4 percent of Whites and 9.8 percent of Asians responded affirmatively to this question. Among Blacks or African Americans who chose not to apply for financing despite needing it, nearly 60 percent said they didn’t apply because they didn’t think they would be approved by the lender. Among all firms who didn’t apply for financing despite needing it, the most common reason cited was not wanting to accrue debt (63 percent of firms). This was fairly consistent across all demographic groups. 64 percent of Whites, 59 percent of Asians, 56 percent of Blacks or African Americans, and 56 percent of Hispanics cited an aversion to debt as a reason for not applying.
Impact of access to and cost of capital on firm profitability
The ASE data also shed light on which challenges entrepreneurs perceive as negatively impacting their firms’ profitability. Among all firms, the most commonly cited sources of negative impact were taxes (48.8 percent of firms), followed by unpredictability of business conditions (43.9 percent of firms), and slow business or lost sales (43.8 percent of firms). While 11.3 percent of all firms cited the cost of financial capital as having a negative impact on firm profitability, 22.6 percent of Black or African American owned firms cited this as a source of negative impact. The disparities were even greater with respect to access to financial capital. 28.4 percent of Blacks and 17.5 percent of Hispanics said access to financial capital was a source of negative impact on their firms’ profitability. Only 10.1 percent of Whites and 13.9 percent of Asians cited access to capital as having a negative impact.
As noted above, this report relied on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE), which was released to the public in limited form in September 2016. Covering more than 200,000 U.S. employer firms, this survey provides unprecedented detail about financing patterns and credit market experiences by both firm owner demographics (such as gender, race, and ethnicity), and firm characteristics (such as firm age and industry). Because the public use microdata were not available while this report was being developed, the contractor relied on the detailed tabular output released by the Census Bureau in advance of the full microdata. As a result of limited data availability, this report is descriptive in nature and causal inferences cannot be drawn with any statistical certainty. The full microdata will need to be analyzed to draw statistically significant conclusions about the highlighted differences in financing patterns and credit market experiences across demographic groups.