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  • The SBCS is an annual survey of small businesses from across the United States. The survey captures and amplifies the anonymized voices of small-business owners on pressing topics related to business conditions and credit access, including financial and operational challenges, banking relationships, labor market dynamics, and other rotating topics.

    As the only source of nationally representative data on the demand, experiences, and outcomes in the small-business credit market, the SBCS fills a gap in the small-business data landscape. The survey data and reports focus attention on growing and changing segments of the small business market, including startups, minority-owned firms, women-owned firms, rural firms, and the self-employed and gig workers.

  • Because the SBCS reaches so many small-business owners and because of the detailed demographic data collected through the survey, SBCS data allow for analysis of narrow segments of the small-business sector. The survey collects demographic data on both the owner and the firm, including those shown below.

    Firm characteristics Owner characteristics
    Business credit score Age of primary owner
    Employment size Owner credit score
    Geography (ZIP Code™ and state) Gender of owners
    Industry Immigrant ownership
    Revenue size LGBTQ ownership
    Year established Race and ethnicity of owners
      Veteran ownership
  • For the purposes of the survey, small businesses are defined as those with fewer than 500 employees. This includes nonemployer businesses, or those with zero employees other than the owners of the business. The demographic data collected in the SBCS on firms’ employment and revenue size enables narrower definitions to be applied as needed.

  • In 2014, four Reserve Banks collaborated for the first time on a joint survey, gathering responses from small businesses across 10 states; in 2015, seven Reserve Banks participated and reached small firms in 26 states. The SBCS was first administered as a national survey in 2016 in collaboration with all 12 Reserve Banks and continues to be conducted annually.

    Prior to the SBCS, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System conducted the Survey of Small Business Finances in four separate years, with the final iteration fielded in 2003.

  • The survey collects 10,000–20,000 responses each year from employer and nonemployer businesses that are currently in operation, as well as prestart and permanently closed businesses.

  • No, the survey is administered by a team within the Federal Reserve System. The survey team collaborates with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago on survey methodology.

  • The SBCS is a convenience sample survey of small businesses. The survey team partners with organizations like chambers of commerce, Small Business Development Centers, and other economic development entities from across the United States to distribute the survey to small-business respondents.

    To make the data more representative of the true population of small business owners, the survey data are weighted to US Census Bureau data through a statistical method known as raking. The weighting approach was developed in collaboration with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. For more, see our Methodology.

    Note that the SBCS is not a panel dataset. While some small-business owners do respond to the survey across multiple years, the survey does not survey the same set of respondents each year.

  • Aggregated data are currently available in downloadable appendix files that accompany the SBCS reports. Restricted use files (RUFs) of SBCS microdata will be available by application in the future. Sign up to be notified when SBCS microdata RUFs are released.

  • We sample establishments, as convenience samples are not easily restricted to firms, but the questionnaire and our reports focus on firms.

    The questionnaire asks about the characteristics and experiences of the business rather than at a certain establishment or location (e.g., number of employees for the business, not at the respondent’s location). We also ask for the zip code of the business headquarters, as well as other identifying information like the business name and email address. Our data cleaning process includes a step to identify and address cases of businesses with more than one response.

    Most small businesses are very small. As such, the respondent businesses we reach are less likely than midsize firms to have multiple establishments, so the strict identification of firms versus establishments is not a key area of focus.

  • In 2021, the US Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey (ABS) included a one-time special module on small business financing, prompting comparisons of SBCS and ABS findings. The SBCS and the ABS are fundamentally different efforts with distinct designs and objectives. When understood together, the SBCS complements the ABS by providing deeper insights on financing and other special topics. While both surveys collected data in 2021 on small business financing, there are meaningful differences between the data, and the surveys are not directly comparable.

    The ABS financing module questions are similar to questions in the SBCS questionnaire, but there are foundational differences in the survey design and the questions used in the two surveys that can reasonably be anticipated to affect responses. Of note, preliminary data from the 2021 ABS financing module show differences between SBCS and ABS figures on application rates. These differences are at least partially attributable to the scope of credit applications captured, the treatment of specific response options, the time periods covered by the two surveys, and respondent recall effects over time.

  • Want to help amplify the voices of small businesses in your community? The Federal Reserve is looking for nonprofit organizations and state/local government entities that work with or assist small businesses to become distribution partners for the SBCS.

    The feedback and timely insights that small businesses share in this survey help other service providers, policymakers, lenders, and, ultimately, the health of the US economy. The SBCS generates the largest national dataset of its kind.

    All partners that draw at least 50 responses will receive individualized reports so they can compare the experiences of businesses in their networks with the national sample.

  • Survey partners invite small businesses in their network to participate in the survey. Partners promote the survey on their website, through social media channels, and via email. Marketing materials are provided to make distributing the survey easy for partner organizations. Once the survey data are processed, partners that draw at least 50 responses will receive individualized reports so they can compare the experiences of businesses in their networks with the national sample. See an example of a partner report.

    Partner organizations are required to sign an agreement that outlines expectations and responsibilities associated with SBCS partnership. View the Partner Agreement.

  • Qualifying distribution partners include nonprofit 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6) organizations and state or local government entities. Non-eligible organizations include for-profit lending entities and organizations that are currently regulated by the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or may be regulated by federal regulatory agencies in the future.

  • Larger sample sizes produce higher-quality data. In order for the data to provide reliable estimates pertaining to the experiences of small-business respondents, approximately 50 responses are required.

  • Yes. Some small business organizations work closely with other service providers in their communities. For those organizations that want to leverage the full reach of their local networks, working together is encouraged, especially when it helps to reach the 50-response threshold needed for a partner report.

  • To ensure that businesses in your community are represented in the survey findings, organizations can share the survey via social media, newsletters, or other communications channels. Prospective respondents can be directed to When the survey is open, it can be launched directly from the website’s homepage.

  • The SBCS team welcomes insights from small business organizations about emerging issues and information gaps, which can inform the development of new survey questions year-to-year. The same survey questions are asked of all respondents nationwide, so the survey cannot accommodate questions tailored to one organization’s small-business contacts.

  • Visit our Become a Partner page and complete the online form to start the process and join a diverse network of small business organizations that collaborate with the Federal Reserve Banks.

  • For questions about partnership, contact Aaliyah Price, SBCS partner manager, at

  • Organizations and government programs designed to support small business across the United States need data to understand the challenges and needs of those businesses. The SBCS is one of the preeminent sources of data on the experiences of small business owners. By taking the survey, survey respondents help researchers at the Federal Reserve elevate the voices of small businesses across the country. SBCS data are vital to policymakers and small business service organizations in identifying issues and shaping programs that support the small business sector.

  • Businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including sole proprietorships with no employees other than the owner, are eligible to respond to the survey. Respondents must be for-profit businesses located in the US and its territories. The survey is best completed by business owners or managers who make financial decisions.

    Businesses that have recently closed or are preparing to launch may take the survey but will receive separate questions.

  • Many types of organizations are interested in the state of small businesses—and by extension, many organizations are interested in SBCS data. Examples of the use of the survey data are many, but below are some specific examples:

    Business support organizations like chambers of commerce or Small Business Development Centers—some of which directly partner with the SBCS—use the data to inform their programming and stay up to date on small business needs.

    Federal Reserve leadership use SBCS data to understand the challenges small business owners are facing, their expectations, and the barriers respondents are facing in accessing credit.

    The SBCS provides leaders in federal, state, and local government with data to inform their decisions pertaining to small businesses.

    Financial institutions use SBCS data to identify underserved segments of the small-business sector.

  • Yes, survey responses are kept anonymous. Only members of the SBCS team within the Federal Reserve System see the detailed responses, including optional contact information associated with your response.

    The survey team publishes a series of publicly available reports annually using aggregated data provided by respondents. The data appendices that accompany the reports may show responses within different demographics—for instance, responses within a specific industry or state—but individual firms cannot be identified as responses are aggregated into categories of 50 or more firms.

    Additionally, when any data files containing individual responses are made available to researchers, data that could be used to identify businesses will be removed. The process of anonymizing the dataset, developed in conjunction with the National Opinion Research Center, guarantees that respondents to the survey cannot be identified.

  • On average, businesses complete the survey in 10-12 minutes, though the time needed depends on the business and their experiences. Responses to some questions may prompt follow-up questions that affect the length of the questionnaire. Additionally, the survey includes an optional open-ended question about business and credit conditions that respondents can respond in their own words. Some respondents skip this question, while others choose to type in detailed responses. These responses are helpful to our team of researchers, and we appreciate any extra time respondents are willing to spend to tell us more about their business experiences.

  • The Federal Reserve does not share business data or contact information with third parties. Respondents that opt to include their email address will not be contacted, except for survey-related purposes. Business names and email addresses are never sold for marketing lists.

  • No, only members of the Federal Reserve’s SBCS team can access detailed responses, including optional contact information associated with responses. The Federal Reserve does not share respondent information with other entities, including government agencies.

  • Demographic data are important for research purposes, as these details help identify the types of businesses that are not able to borrow funds to operate. We understand the sensitivity of personal demographic data and will never disclose information about individual businesses and their owners to anyone outside our small team of Federal Reserve researchers.

  • The survey is open every year in the fall. See the Important dates page for timing of the next survey.

  • The survey is available in English and Spanish.

  • Small business owners should respond to the SBCS only once per year. Duplicate responses are removed from the SBCS dataset.

  • Small-business owners are not required to respond to the SBCS. However, voluntarily responses to the SBCS provides Federal Reserve researchers with valuable information about the experiences of small-business owners across the country.

  • The Federal Reserve does not provide loans to small businesses. For more information on the functions of the Federal Reserve, please visit the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ website.

  • Thriving small businesses are key to vibrant communities, and collectively, they play an important role in the US economy. Along with employing nearly half of private-sector workers, small businesses are catalysts of innovation and the backbone of Main Street.

    Given their national significance, timely information on economic conditions facing small businesses and their credit needs is vital. However, small businesses are often underrepresented in economic data. As such, the Federal Reserve undertakes the Small Business Credit Survey and other major research initiatives pertaining to small firms to better understand the landscape of the small-business sector.

  • Federal Reserve staff works with intermediaries to support small businesses and microenterprises in order to help increase the capacity of funding and technical assistance providers. The Federal Reserve also works to enhance the availability of credit and capital for small businesses and to build a deeper understanding of small business trends and conditions.

    Fed staff regularly convene stakeholders, including small business practitioners from community organizations, financial institutions, governmental agencies to discuss challenges, opportunities, and emerging issues. Regional Reserve Banks host advisory council meetings with business leaders and representatives of consumer and community development organizations to facilitate discussions about economic conditions and create opportunities for collaboration.

  • To help identify opportunities to improve access to capital and credit for small businesses, the Federal Reserve conducts a survey of business owners – the Small Business Credit Survey – and other surveys on lender activities including the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey and the Survey of Small Business Lenders. The data collected support research on small business credit gaps and other business challenges. Additionally, Reserve Bank staff gather qualitative insights from their local communities that help identify emerging issues and inform the direction of future research.

  • While the Federal Reserve supervises and regulates financial institutions that may lend to small businesses, the Federal Reserve does not directly lend to small businesses.

  • The Federal Reserve may convene organizations that provide technical assistance or work directly with them on initiatives like the Small Business Credit Survey, but the Federal Reserve does not directly provide technical assistance to small businesses.

  • For more on the mission of the Federal Reserve, please visit the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ website.