About the Survey
The SBCS is a convenience-sample survey conducted in partnership with business and industry associations, local agencies, and nonprofits. The survey captures the perspectives of business owners operating firms with fewer than 500 employees. The data are weighted using Census Bureau data to match the distribution of firms in the SBCS sample to the distribution of small employer firms (1–499 employees) in the United States by age of the business, industry, number of employees, census division, urban or rural location, and owner’s race, ethnicity, and gender. The SBCS is conducted each year in the fall, and reports on the results are released beginning the following spring.
The SBCS questionnaire covers these key areas:
- Firm performance and challenges: Changes in revenue, number of employees, outlook for the business, and financial challenges the business is experiencing.
- Financing needs and borrower experiences: Sources of financing, credit products utilized, and experiences applying for and obtaining credit.
The recession of 2007–2009 and accompanying financial crisis brought about a significant reduction in credit availability for small-business borrowers. Bank lending to small firms dropped significantly and has been slow to recover, while nonbank lenders have entered the market in recent years. Given the importance of small firms’ access to credit and, in turn, the impact of small businesses on economic growth, policymakers have been interested in understanding the changing dynamics of the small business credit environment.
With limited data available on small business credit conditions, the 12 Federal Reserve Banks conducted a series of 40 meetings in 2010 to gather information and perspectives on credit gaps. Subsequently, several Reserve Banks conducted regional surveys to reach business owners in their districts to gather information on credit experiences. For example, in 2013, the Cleveland Fed conducted a survey of small business owners in the Fourth Federal Reserve District.
In 2014, the Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia Reserve Banks collaborated for the first time on a joint survey, gathering more than 2,000 responses from firms in 10 states. Seven Reserve Banks participated in the 2015 SBCS, reaching more than 5,000 small firms from 26 states. In 2016, the survey achieved national coverage through a collaboration of all 12 Reserve Banks. This national perspective enables us to tell the story of small businesses’ credit experiences from local, regional, and national standpoints. Find national reports, data, and other details about the SBCS at fedsmallbusiness.org.