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Why Are Black-Owned Businesses Less Successful than White-Owned Businesses? The Role of Families, Inheritances, and Business Human Capital

  • Robert Fairlie
  • Alicia Robb

Four decades ago, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan made the argument that the black family "was not strong enough to create those extended clans that elsewhere were most helpful for businessmen and professionals." Using data from the confidential and restricted access Characteristics of Business Owners Survey, we investigate this hypothesis by examining whether racial differences in family business backgrounds can explain why black-owned businesses lag substantially behind white-owned businesses in sales, profits, employment size and survival probabilities? Estimates from the CBO indicate that black business owners have a relatively disadvantaged family business background compared with white business owners. Black business owners are much less likely than white business owners to have had a self-employed family member owner prior to starting their business and are less likely to have worked in that family member's business. We do not, however, find sizeable racial differences in inheritances of business. Using a nonlinear decomposition technique, we find that the relatively low probability of having a self-employed family member prior to business startup among blacks does not generally contribute to racial differences in small business outcomes. Instead, the lack of prior work experience in a family business among black business owners, perhaps by limiting their acquisition of general and specific business human capital, negatively affects black business outcomes. We also find that limited opportunities for acquiring specific business human capital through work experience in businesses providing similar goods and services contribute to worse business outcomes among blacks. We compare these estimates to contributions from racial differences in owner's education, startup capital, geographical location and other factors.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2005/CES-WP-05-06.pdf
File Function: First version, 2005
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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 05-06.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:05-06
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