Veteran-owned Businesses and their Owners—Data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners


Full Report

Research Summary

March 2012                           No. 393

Veteran-owned Businesses and their Owners—Data
from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners

By Joseph Sobota, with contributions from Jules Lichtenstein
U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy. 88 pages.


Businesses owned by veterans and by service-
disabled veterans have been a research priority for
the U. S. Small Business Administration’s Office
of Advocacy since the enactment of the Veterans
Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development
Act of 1999, Public Law 106-50. This report continues
Advocacy’s ongoing veteran entrepreneurship
research program and features data on veteran-
owned businesses and their owners. The report is
based on 2007 Survey of Business Owners data
released in 2011.

Overall Findings

According to the Census Bureau, in 2007 there were
2.45 million businesses with majority ownership
by veterans. Of these, 491,000 were employers and
1.956 million were nonemployers. They represented
9 percent of all U.S. firms.


• Veteran-owned firms had sales/receipts of
$1.220 trillion, 5.793 million employees, and
annual payroll of $210 billion. Employer firms
were responsible for 92.3 percent of the receipts,
$1.126 trillion.

• Nearly one third of all veteran-owned firms were
in two industry groups: construction and professional,
scientific, and technical services.

• By industry, finance and insurance had the largest
share of veteran-owned businesses, at 13.2
percent, followed by transportation and warehousing;
mining; construction; professional, scientific, and
technical services; and manufacturing.

• By state, California, Texas, Florida, New York,
and Georgia had the largest numbers of veteran-
owned businesses. Ranked by the veteran-owned
percentage of businesses in the state, the top
five states were South Carolina, West Virginia,
Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama.

• Veteran business owners were overwhelmingly
male (94.8 percent) and White (89.7 percent);
7.6 percent of veteran-owned firms were owned
by African Americans and 4.6 percent by
Hispanic Americans.

• The owners were predominantly over the age of
55 (75.1 percent), reflecting the ages of veterans
overall, and they tended to be better educated
than other business owners.

• Of the veteran business owners who responded
to the survey, 8.3 percent had service-connected

• By far the largest source of capital for veteran-
owned business startup or acquisition was personal
or family savings: 61.7 percent of respondents
reported using this source. Business loans
from banks or other commercial lenders were
the second most important source at 9.8 percent.

• For business expansion or capital improvements,
30 percent used personal or family savings.
Personal and business credit cards were also
important sources of capital, at 10.9 percent.

• Veteran-owned businesses were more likely to
be home-based, less likely to be family-owned,
and somewhat less likely to be franchises than
the business population overall.

• Veteran-owned employer businesses were slightly
more likely to offer benefits such as health
insurance, contributions to retirement plans,
profit sharing, and paid leave than businesses

Scope and Methodology

A critical source of data on veteran-owned businesses
and their owners is the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey
of Business Owners (SBO). The SBO was first conducted
in its present form for data year 2002, and the
most recent edition is for data year 2007. About 2.3
million businesses received the SBO survey instrument
during 2008-2009 asking for information about
the characteristics of the business and its owners. The
information obtained from respondents was combined
with additional Census data and administrative
records from other agencies to develop a wide variety
of data products, including information on veteran-
owned firms and their owners.

The 2007 SBO provides the most detailed data on
veterans and service-disabled veterans in business
ever collected, far more than was available in the 2002
SBO. Datasets with specialized veteran-related information
from the 2007 SBO were released in 2011.

These analyses summarized key data from large
datasets available online at
. In all, 39 datasets have
information on veteran-owned businesses or their
owners, including seven with full-universe estimates
of all firms by industry, location, size by receipts/
sales, size by number of employees, gender, race,
and ethnicity. Another 22 datasets concern characteristics
of respondent businesses, and 10 more have
data on the characteristics of the owners of respondent

Respondent firms include all firms that responded
to the characteristic(s) tabulated in this dataset and
reported gender, ethnicity, race, or veteran status or
that were publicly held or not classifiable by gender,
ethnicity, race, and veteran status. For additional
information on methodology, definitions, relative
standard errors, and confidentiality protection, see
the 2007 SBO website at

This report was peer-reviewed consistent with
Advocacy’s data quality guidelines. More information
on this process can be obtained by contacting
the director of economic research by email at or by phone at (202) 205-6533.

Ordering Information

Research from the Office of Advocacy is online at Copies are available
for purchase from:

National Technical Information Service
5285 Port Royal Road
Springfield, VA 22161
(800) 553-6847 or (703) 605-6000
TDD: (703) 487-4639
Order number: PB2012-106179

Paper A06 ($48.00)
Microfiche A06 ($33.00)
CD-ROM A00 ($30.00)
Download A00 ($15.00)

For email delivery of Advocacy’s newsletter,
press, regulatory news, and research, visit

The opinions and recommendations of the authors of this study do not necessarily reflect official policies of the SBA or other agencies of the U.S. government.