The Entrepreneurship in the Population (EPOP) Survey is a publicly available resource for understanding the scope of entrepreneurial activities across the United States. The EPOP Survey includes a variety of measures of entrepreneurial activity providing policymakers and researchers with current information about the experiences and perceptions of entrepreneurs across the nation. The results support estimation at the state and major metropolitan area level.
The EPOP Survey uses a nationally representative sample to measure current and former business ownership, whether individuals are currently taking or have in the past taken steps towards starting a business, the extent to which individuals engage in freelance work or participate in the “gig economy.” In addition to providing a characteristic profile of the individuals involved in these various entrepreneurial activities across the U.S., the survey serves as a resource for understanding the motivations, actions, and challenges faced by individuals during the entrepreneurial process and the resources available to them.
The EPOP Survey allows individuals to qualify for multiple categorizations of entrepreneurship (e.g., one might currently own a business after being a former freelancer, or another might be planning for a business while being a gig worker). Each entrepreneurship category is derived independently and accommodates the complex work situations individuals may have. The EPOP Survey begins by capturing employment history and screening for entrepreneurial activity. The survey classifies individuals into an entrepreneurship category for follow-up questions; for individuals who qualify for more than one entrepreneurship category, the following priority order is applied to assign a single category for follow-up questions to limit respondent burden:
The follow-up questions are structured so each entrepreneurship category receives similar questions worded in comparable ways to foster more robust analysis across the categorical assignments.
The EPOP Survey also captures incidence of gig work and asks if the primary or secondary job is gig work. An additional question is asked about any other gig work beyond the primary or secondary jobs to ensure all gig work activities are reported. Given the potential for lack of clarity in what counts as gig work, the survey includes the following definition in the main text of the survey question:
“Some people earn money through short, paid tasks or jobs online or in-person that are conducted through companies that coordinate payment for the service. This is sometimes referred to as ‘gig work.’”
The EPOP Survey includes follow-up questions about gig work which are asked of any respondent engaged in it regardless of their entrepreneurship category.
The target population of the EPOP Survey includes noninstitutionalized adults 18 years or older in the United States.
The sample design supports the following estimation objectives:
The EPOP Survey uses a stratified sampling design to achieve the research objectives. States without one of the 50 largest MSA constitutes a primary sampling stratum or a geography. For states with one or more of the 50 largest MSAs, each MSA and the rest of state outside MSAs make a primary sampling stratum. MSAs made up of counties from multiple states are divided into multiple primary sampling strata, one for each state. To achieve the objective supporting estimation and analysis of entrepreneurship characteristics of underrepresented minorities, particularly Black and Hispanic individuals, within states and MSAs, each primary stratum is further divided into three secondary sampling strata: Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic Other.
The EPOP Survey sample is selected from three frame sources:
Samples selected from the AmeriSpeak Panel and the ABS frame are probability samples with explicit stratification and known sample selection probabilities while the sample obtained from the opt-in online survey panels is a nonprobability sample with unknown frame coverage and unknown selection probabilities.
Five annual EPOP Surveys are planned. The EPOP:2022 data collection began on February 15, 2022 and concluded June 6, 2022. The EPOP:2023 data collection began on March 18, 2023 and concluded July 4, 2023. The EPOP:2024 data collection is scheduled to begin mid-February 2024.
Differential data collection protocols were followed for each of the sample types.
Partially completed surveys in the AmeriSpeak Panel and ABS samples were followed-up with emails and prompting calls.
Data was primarily collected via an online survey. Computer-assisted telephone interviewing was a secondary mode and available upon request.
Participants were able to take the survey in English or Spanish.
All participants were compensated for their participation.
The response rate varied by sample type.
The raw data file was reviewed and compared to the programmed survey specifications to identify data irregularities and to develop any necessary code to transform raw data for consistency. Complete and partial survey records were all reviewed for data integrity (e.g., to identify respondents who completed the survey too quickly to have read question text and respondents who straight-lined responses) and those that were in violation were discarded. For a small number of cases where the data could not be repaired, the case was discarded. Similarly, cases were evaluated for item nonresponse. Those with high item nonresponse or missing critical pathway information were dropped from the final data set.
Complete surveys from the three sample sources were combined using NORC’s TrueNorth® weighting method to generate a set of combined sample weights to support estimation. The survey contains two sets of weights:
Statistical Disclosure Limitation (SDL) techniques were applied to the data to protect the privacy of survey respondents including recoding, suppression, rounding and micro-aggregation.
The following variables were appended to the EPOP Survey data file after processing:
The final PUF and RUF were created from the fully processed data set.
The overall timeline for implementing this project is July 1, 2021 to December 31, 2026. The schedule of this project is as follows:
The CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) calls attention to findings from the EPOP-IN Survey about the entrepreneurial landscape in Indiana.
The Kauffman Foundation continues to recognize, with urgency, the significance of the role new and existing businesses play in local, regional, and the national economy. This report continues their series of sharing the state of capital access for entrepreneurs highlighting the need for innovative products and models to improve capital delivery systems.
Based on the national EPOP Survey, the Entrepreneurship in the Population: Indiana (EPOP-IN) project focuses on experiences with and interest in entrepreneurship in Indiana. The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) conducted EPOP-IN to learn about self-employment and business formation issues specific to residents in their state. The study collected data from August to November 2022. Click here for EPOP-IN information, data, and reports about the study.
If you are interested in learning more about conducting an EPOP study at the state, regional, or local level, please contact us at EPOPresearch@norc.org.
Katie Johnson, Research Methodologist at NORC, presented on an EPOP:2023 data collection methods experiment at the 2023 Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR) Conference. The controlled experiment compared the impact of sending a text message versus a USPS postcard to the control treatment in increasing survey response.
Prosperity Now has been a persistent voice championing economic opportunity to build power for all communities and advance racial and ethnic economic justice. Leveraging EPOP Survey data, Prosperity Now analyzed the unique experiences of entrepreneurs of color. Their October 2023 report “From Start to Exit: Insights and Implications from Former Entrepreneurs of Color” focuses on former business owners of color and the challenges they face. Their November 2023 report “Employee Benefits Offered by Entrepreneurs of Color” investigates the degree to which diverse business owners offer health insurance and other benefits to their employees.
A new NORC research brief “A Profile on U.S. Business Owners: Examining Trends by Gender and Racial Identities” highlights the rising diversity in this population. Based on EPOP:2022 Survey data, this report shows greater levels of diversity among business owners who opened their businesses in recent years. Non-Hispanic Black women and Hispanic individuals (men and women) are becoming business owners at significantly higher rates than in the past (since 2020). Furthermore, EPOP data indicates that the number of non-Hispanic Black female business owners will continue to grow.