Progress Continues on Census’s Nonemployer Data Project (NES-D)

By Brian Headd, Economist

Advocacy published a blog six months ago on an important new data gathering effort, Advocacy And Census Focus On The Smallest Small Businesses With A New Nonemployer Demographic Data Project. The blog reported on the U.S. Census Bureau’s paper, Nonemployer Statistics by Demographics (NES-D): Using Administrative and Census Records Data in Business Statistics and the need for the business owner demographic data program, in general.

Since then, Census has released another working paper on the program, Nonemployer Statistics by Demographics (NES-D): Exploring Longitudinal Consistency and Sub-national Estimates.[1] This new paper applies the previously developed methodology for the program, calculates estimates and compares them to figures from similar data programs within Census to determine accuracy and consistency of the methodology.

Using administrative records (government paperwork as opposed to a survey) for the years 2014 through 2016, the authors were able to find records for about 99 percent of business owners. Of these, over 90 percent had relevant information related to the owners’ demographics (gender, race, veteran status, age, etc.).  The authors view the trial run as a success because using existing administrative records lowers the burdens on respondents, little data estimation (or imputation) is needed, and the costs of using administrative records are well below what is required to conduct a survey.

The paper ends by stating that the “goal is to release a beta version of NES-D in 2020” focusing on 2017 data.  Stay tuned for further developments as the formal release of data is not far off.

[1] Adela Luque, Michaela Dillon, Julia Manzella, James Noon, Kevin Rinz and Victoria Udalova, Nonemployer Statistics by Demographics (NES-D): Exploring Longitudinal Consistency and Sub-national Estimates, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2019,