Advocacy launched its infographic to spotlight our recent issue brief “Women’s Business Ownership: Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners” by Michael J. McManus, Regulatory Economist. Click here to view the infographic.
The report shows the major economic contribution of women-owned businesses. The report uses the most recent Census Bureau data to create a highly detailed portrait of this group, including their role in minority business communities.
By Economists Michael McManus and Miriam Segal
Throughout March’s National Women’s History Month, agencies across the government held events celebrating the history and work of American women. The Office of Advocacy participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” Research Economist Miriam Segal and Regulatory Economist Michael McManus joined Joan Harrigan-Farrelly from the Department of Labor to discuss women business leaders and research on women entrepreneurs.
Segal focused on challenges that women business owners face, particularly with regards to access to capital, and discussed how innovations in financial services such as peer-to-peer lending and equity crowdfunding can potentially reduce these challenges. All else equal, women-owned businesses are less likely to have external sources of funding than their male-owned counterparts—and when they do, it tends to be in smaller dollar amounts. Suggested explanations include the differences in the compositions of women’s social networks. 
Peer-to-peer lending and equity-based crowdfunding have the potential to fill women business owners’ capital needs by facilitating connections with potential funders. Research results vary, with some studies showing no effects of a borrower’s gender on their chance of receiving funds in Germany, while others, using United States data, have found that their funders favored women.  One study showed that lenders favor borrowers of the same gender due to perceived social proximity. However, most of the existing research focuses on personal borrowing or microfinancing in developing countries. We do not have the data to know whether women raising capital as business owners in the U.S. receive the same equal or favorable treatment described above.
McManus spoke about his research on business demographics and on his upcoming research project on women-owned businesses. He highlighted the continued role of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. economy, and the size of their impact. The 9.8 million women-owned businesses provide $264 billion in payroll to more than 8.4 million U.S. workers. Minority communities also have very high rates of women business ownership, with almost 60 percent of all Black/African-American businesses being women-owned. 
However, McManus noted that data from the Census shows opportunities for growth. Only 36 percent of all businesses are women-owned. They also have smaller revenue and employ fewer individuals than male-owned businesses, on average. He presented some initial research from his upcoming report that looked at how the industries women-owned businesses are in and some key business characteristics could be affecting revenue and employment. The audience was interested in the upcoming research product, and asked questions regarding the important role of non-employer women-owned businesses.
The audience was eager to learn more about the challenges that women business owners face. Advocacy looks forward to continuing presentations on its research on minority- and women-owned businesses. McManus’ research on women-owned businesses is slated to publish within the next few months.
Michael McManus is a Regulatory Economist and can be reached at Michael.email@example.com.
 Coleman, S., & Robb, A. (2014). Access to Capital by High-Growth Women-Owned Businesses. National Women’s Business Council. Retrieved from
https://www.nwbc.gov/sites/default/files/Access to Capital by High Growth Women-Owned Businesses (Robb) – Final Draft.pdf
 In order of appearance:
Barasinska, N., & Schafer, D. (2014). Is Crowdfunding Different? Evidence on the Relation between Gender and Funding Success from a German Peer-to-Peer Lending Platform? German Economic Review. 15(4), 436-452.
Pope, D., & Sydnor, J. (2009). What’s in a Picture? Evidence of Discrimination from Prosper.com The Journal of Human Resources, 46(1), 53-92. Retrieved from
Duarte, J., Siegel, S., & Young, Lance. (2012).Trust and Credit. The Review of Financial Studies, 24(8), 2455-2484. Retrieved from
 Galak, J., Small, D., & Stephen, A. (2011). Microfinance Decision Making: A Field Study of Prosocial Lending. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(SPL), S130-S137.
 U.S. Census Bureau via American FactFinder, 2012 Survey of Business Owners
By: Jonathan Porat, Regulatory Economist
At the beginning of August, some of the biggest rock stars in the world descended on Chicago for Lollapalooza– a multi-day massive world-renowned music festival. Arguably more excitingly, that same week, some of the biggest rock stars in the world of statistics and data visualization came to Chicago for the 2016 Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM)– the Lollapalooza of statistics and data visualization.
The JSM is a conference of all of the major US and international statistics organizations. It boasts having over 6,000 attendees and over 600 sessions on topics ranging from new developments in statistical software programs to ways to better communicate information through graphics. Advocacy was invited to participate. Research Economist Richard Schwinn presented his contribution to Advocacy’s cutting-edge transformation of its State Economic Profiles. Data Visualization Designer Sarah Coleman, Regulatory Economist Jonathan Porat, and Research Economist Miriam Segal attended the JSM to expand their analytical capabilities and help promote some of Advocacy’s great research and design work.
Advocacy presented as part of a larger session on Administrative Records and Data Disclosure that was sponsored by the Government Statistics Section of the Committee on Applied Statisticians. The session was chaired by Statistician and Mathematician Jioashen You of the US Department of Transportation and included presentations from other government agencies on the role of data presentations in government. Jessica Helfrand of the Bureau of Labor Statistics presented on the policy implications of methodological changes in its quarterly employment and wage data. Erin Tannenbaum from the National Opinions Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago described how data visualization of the Centers for Disease Control data can promote good policy by quickly and effectively determining geographic disparities in key indicators of good health.
Schwinn presenting at JSM.
Schwinn presented his contributions to the 2016 State Economic Profiles by focusing on the value of reproducibility in government data and how he was able to use statistical software to improve the reproducibility of Advocacy’s publications. His presentation was greatly received by the audience and catalyzed an interesting discussion between other government practitioners and academics in the audience. The audience was particularly interested in Schwinn’s presentation of a simple statistical software template that could be applied in future research to maintain high standards in transparency and clarity.
In addition to Schwinn’s fascinating presentation, Advocacy attended many sessions to improve its research capabilities. These included:
A few of the impressive data visualization examples that were at the conference.
Advocacy was privileged to participate in and contribute to the 2016 JSM. It will be exciting to see how all the valuable information and experience from the JSM will be crystalized into future publications. Advocacy looks forward to continuing to contribute its great work and expand its research capabilities at more events in the future.
By Michael McManus, Regulatory Research Fellow
Late last week the SBA Office of Advocacy participated in the annual Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis Conference. The conference, widely attended by government employees and academics alike, works to improve the theory and practice of benefit-cost analysis.
Benefit cost analysis or economic analysis is an important tool used by federal agencies to understand the effects of their regulations and actions. Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Office of Advocacy reviews agency’s economic analysis to ensure the costs of regulations on small businesses have been correctly estimated and that cost-minimizing alternatives have been considered. A well-crafted economic analysis helps agencies and Advocacy ensure that small businesses are not being unduly burdened by a new rule. Advocacy was eager to take advantage of this opportunity to promote the value in considering small businesses in these types of analyses, and to share the resources we have available to help guide agencies’ economic analysis.
Office of Advocacy economists Patrick Delehanty and Lindsay Scherber chaired a roundtable discussion focused on how agencies currently analyze the effects of regulations on small businesses and potential improvements to the process. Advocacy regulatory economist Jonathan Porat was joined by senior economists from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Federal Drug Administration and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
The panel discussed challenges faced when creating BCAs and opportunities to improve these analyses to focus on specific small business effects. All panelists spoke about the lack of data on the cost of compliance, specifically for smaller industries. However, Porat was able to highlight ways that Advocacy can reach out to small businesses, such as roundtables, to help fill in data gaps. Advocacy also highlighted the importance for agencies to consider small business effects early in the regulatory process so they can more easily develop cost-saving alternatives. Alternatives that lower costs on small businesses are required in an economic analysis under the Regulatory Flexibility act, and Advocacy economists ensure they are properly considered when finalizing a new rule.
The conference’s keynote speakers, Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), spoke about their work trying to reform the United States’ regulatory system. In the talk with former OIRA Administrator Susan Dudley, they discussed a desire to ensure agencies are encouraged to make rules that are not overly burdensome or duplicative. Specifically, they spoke about wanting to alter the current system so the public and affected parties, including small businesses, are able to provide their expertise, ensuring that agencies have the best information to inform regulatory policy.
Assistant Chief Counsel Kevin Bromberg also participated in the day during a roundtable discussion on the role of Cost-Effectiveness in EPA’s water rules. Director of Economic Research, Christine Kymn, also chaired a session focused on the regulatory process and Research Economist Daniel Wilmoth presented his paper regarding BCA discounting methods. SBA Advocacy’s involvement in the conference ensured that small business interests would not be overlooked.
By Miriam Segal, Research Economist, and Lindsay Scherber, Regulatory Economist
On September 22, three economists from the SBA Office of Advocacy attended the 2015 National Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship: A Roadmap for Inclusion. The event was hosted by the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) in Oakland, California. It featured Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, as the keynote speaker, as well as a diverse array of panelists that included PhD cancer researchers and partners at consulting firms. Attending this event is part of Advocacy’s effort to research and promote the participation of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) entrepreneurship.
Commercialization of inventions is the key step linking research and innovation. It is important to the U.S. economy since it transforms human capital (that is, years of painstaking research) into valuable innovations that create jobs and solve difficult problems. One outstanding example that panelists cited is Christine Ho, a PhD graduate of UC Berkeley. Ho transformed her research on rechargeable zinc batteries – which are more environmentally friendly than lithium batteries – into a company called Imprint Energy. She filed a patent application in 2010 and founded Imprint Energy with a Berkeley business school graduate, Brooks Kincaid, the same year. By June 2012, they had hired five employees, and in June 2014, the company secured $6 million in Series A financing.
However, a 2014 report from the Office of Advocacy shows that Ho’s experience may be relatively uncommon among female PhD recipients. Women with PhDs in STEM fields are only about half as likely to engage in patenting as their male counterparts (15 percent for women vs. 28 percent for men). And within most fields of study, female STEM PhD recipients were less likely to participate in entrepreneurial activity, such as owning a business or working at a startup. In general, women are less likely to be business owners than men. In 2013, 7.2 percent of employed women were self-employed, compared to 11.4 percent of men. Regardless of the cause of this difference, increasing women’s participation in entrepreneurship – and fulfilling unrealized technological potential – could be one way to generate economic growth. Moreover, innovation is not a zero-sum game where one entrepreneur wins and the other loses. If women commercialized more patents, men would not necessarily commercialize less.
Many panelists at the AWIS summit mentioned that although women’s share of the workforce and of leadership positions is increasing, a disparity still exists; and no one was convinced that differences in ability or ambition explain why only 23 of the S&P 500 companies have female CEOs (less than five percent). A common thread throughout the morning was the discussion of unconscious bias. For example, Laura Furstenthal, partner at McKinsey & Company, spoke of a surprising finding after one particular training session on unconscious gender bias: the women in the group actually exhibited more unconscious bias towards women than the men did!
This point underscored the importance of awareness in order to promote diversity and inclusion. In the words of Christie Smith, managing principal at Deloitte, research institutions need to move from “unconscious bias” to “conscious accountability.” This effort would require using big data to hold leaders accountable and should focus on culture rather than on programs. Smith also noted that looking beyond superficial demographic characteristics to find common ground is a great way to foster inclusion. Just as including women in entrepreneurship and innovation is a great way to foster economic growth.
By Jonathan Porat, Regulatory Economist
Economists from the Office of Advocacy’s Office of Economic Research recently attended the Third Annual Academic Symposium on Crowdfunding held at the University of California-Berkeley. The symposium brings together top academics to discuss cutting edge crowdfunding research. Presentations covered everything from more conventional reward-based crowdfunding to new developments in the peer-to-peer lending space. The research yielded some fascinating insights on how entrepreneurs can more easily get access to capital.
1. Syndicates may be the solution
Agrawal, Catalini, and Goldfarb presented research on the rise of syndicates, or vehicles allowing equity crowdfunding investors to fund small parts of deals led by more experienced investors. Similar to startup accelerators, syndicates can alleviate the risk inherent in investing in novel and innovative ventures. As a result, startups that may traditionally be kept out of venture capital or other funding mechanisms may be able to more easily access capital by receiving a syndicate’s “stamp of approval.”
2. Crowdfunding is developing new kinds of entrepreneurs
Research by Mollick and Kuppuswamy observed that entrepreneurs who successfully complete a crowdfunding campaign may glean unique benefits and possess different skills than other entrepreneurs. The customer-focused nature of crowdfunding tends to encourage and reward the development of entrepreneurial customer service and customer interaction skills. Consequently, crowdfunding may yield benefits beyond financial capital. Unlike many conventional funding mechanisms which focus on harder productivity metrics, crowdfunding is funding entrepreneurs that would otherwise go unsupported.
3. Social media matters
Berea, Goldfarb, and Kirsch found that increased social networking activity is related to success in crowdfunding campaigns. Therefore, social networking may become an important tool for entrepreneurs to expand the scope and magnitude of their network of potential investors.
Even though some of this research is still at an early stage, it is laying the groundwork towards addressing meaningful barriers to capital acquisition. Moving ahead, Advocacy economists look forward to continuing to research this changing landscape of access to capital.
The Office of Advocacy is pleased to announce the launch of a new interactive graphic titled “3 Reasons to Love Your Region.” This product aims to highlight the qualities that make each small business region unique. From thriving small manufacturing firms in Region 1 to a hub of self-employed small businesses in Region 10, each region contributes to our nation’s continuously growing small business community. As you celebrate America’s independence this week, click the image below and explore how each region contributes to our country’s small business success.
-Emily Theroux, Intern
By Jonathan Porat, Regulatory Economist, Office of Advocacy
Congress has ramped up efforts to pass patent reform legislation after years of debate and discussion. This increased attention to intellectual property has touched on the importance of patents to small businesses. Small businesses may be particularly affected by patent reform since startups rely on patents for fundraising, and entrepreneurs build on newly discovered technologies. Established small businesses that rely on intellectual property protection and licensing would be affected as well.
Small businesses make up an important part of “patent-intensive” industries, which rely relatively heavily on intellectual property. When we combine the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics of U.S. Businesses and a grouping methodology from an upcoming Office of Advocacy report, we can see that small businesses make up a substantial majority of firms in patent-intensive industries. Overall, approximately 96 percent of all firms in patent-intensive industries are considered small businesses.
As the chart below shows, these small businesses tend to employ more people on a per-firm basis than the national average. U.S. small businesses have an average of 10 employees per firm. In contrast, small firms in “super-heavy” patent intensity industries—or those which receive over 9 percent of all patents issued to corporations (corporate patents)—employ 24 employees per firm. Small businesses in “heavy intensity” industries (which receive between 2 and 6 percent of all corporate patents) employ almost double the average number of people per firm. Continuing the trend, small firms in “light intensity” industries (which receive between a half percent and 2 percent of corporate patents) employ over double the average number of people per firm.
While these firms are larger than the national average in terms of the number of people they employ, the small business share of employment in patent-intensive industries is below the national average of 48 percent. (This is shown in the next chart.) Therefore, while small businesses in patent-intensive industries are larger than average, they make up a smaller-than-average share of their respective industries’ employment. On the most basic level, these data show that small firms in patent-intensive industries contribute to overall economic growth, but have a complex relationship within their respective industries.
Considering the importance of patent policy changes to small businesses on both a firm- and industry-level, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA), a seminal piece of legislation in patent policy, included a provision asking the Office of Advocacy to study the small business impacts of AIA implementation. Over the next week, Advocacy will be releasing this study and related publications to provide further context for the small business impacts of patent policy. The aim of this research is to improve the discussion of how patent policy is affecting small businesses and provide additional methods for analyzing its economic impact.
By Jonathan Porat, Regulatory Economist
Startups such as Dropbox, Reddit, and Airbnb have become aspirational success stories for entrepreneurs. They have made people’s lives easier, disrupted established industries through simple innovations, and in some cases received billion-dollar valuations. Some people however may not be aware that these high-growth and high-value startups have all taken advantage of an innovative funding mechanism for small businesses: the accelerator program. Now, startups in the non-profit sector are taking note and hoping to use this model traditionally leveraged by the tech sector to advance important public policy goals.
To paraphrase recent research from Cohen and Hochberg, accelerator programs are short-term mentorship programs for groups of startups that culminate in a demo day or a public pitch to large groups of investors. Often accelerators are for-profit entities that will provide mentorship services as well as some seed funding and additional resources in exchange for an equity stake in a participating startup. While accelerators have been around for almost a decade, due to the success of prototypical accelerators such as Y Combinator (the accelerator behind the companies mentioned at the top of this post), their popularity has surged.
Catalyzed by accelerator success stories and investors’ increasingly favorable view of them, the non-profit sector has started experimenting with this innovative model. Startups in the non-profit sector may have difficulty getting early-stage venture capital funding making these entrepreneurs hungry for an alternative.
One exemplar of this type of new “social accelerator” program is Conscious Ventures Lab, a benefit corporation located in Howard County, Maryland. In September, Conscious Ventures held its first demo day for its first cohort of five companies: all startups with social-welfare goals. These included one startup designed to connect women entrepreneurs to resources and funding sources and another that provides a curated marketplace for socially conscious consumers. The local economic development authority has even partnered with the accelerator to work toward its economic development and public policy goals. It will be interesting to see from these early efforts what lessons can be learned about future applications of the accelerator model in the non-profit and public sectors.
Clearly, the accelerator model has a lot of potential to be used to grow small businesses and could act as an agent of change in meeting public policy goals. However, there is no guarantee of success when participating in one of these programs. More importantly, there are still many unanswered questions about the accelerator model. There is little authoritative data available on accelerators, and it is unclear how to evaluate their success. In addition, possible unintended consequences and policy resistance of applying this model outside of the tech sector have been largely unexplored.
To add to the scarce research on this topic, on October 16th the Office of Advocacy released the new research report, Innovation Accelerators: Defining Characteristics among Startup Assistance Organizations, plus an issue brief. This research highlights key questions around accelerators as well as further explores the relevance of these programs for small businesses and policymakers. Advocacy looks forward to continuing to contribute to research and discussions on small business marketplace innovations.
The Year in Review: Implications for Small Businesses
Two important economic indicators released late in 2013—employment and interest rates—give us some optimism about small business and economic growth trends. Both of these indicators are key to consumer spending, which drives two-thirds of our nation’s economic activity.
At 7 percent, the unemployment rate in November 2013 was at its lowest level since 2008. Small businesses are responsible for 63 percent or 4.3 million of the 6.9 million jobs created since the recovery began. Interest rates rose slightly during the year but remain at historical lows. This has benefited the interest-sensitive construction and automobile industries, which had suffered sharp downturns following the Great Recession. In November 2013, building construction employment reversed its downturn and increased 3.3 percent over the prior year; 85 percent of these jobs are in small businesses. While automakers are typically large businesses, 74 percent of jobs in motor vehicle and parts are found in small businesses; these have benefited from 5.4 percent employment growth in this sector.
In addition to these promising trends, lower interest rates and dwindling inventories have led to double-digit increases in home prices in major metropolitan areas. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index of property prices in 20 cities climbed 13.6 percent from October 2012, the biggest 12-month gain since February 2006. Home equity is an important source of capital for small business, so improvement in home prices and home equity should boost access to capital.