Frequently Asked Questions
Survey of Small Business Finances
Q: If there are only 4,240 firms included on the 2003 data set, why are there 21,200
observations in the data set?
A: For the 2003 release, the SSBF data set includes 5 implicates. Each implicate
includes 4,240 firms. In total, the entire data set contains 21,200 observations.
NOTE: Even though there are five implicates, there are still only 4,240 firm observations.
Across implicates, the values of all reported variables remain constant, but the values of
imputed variables may differ. The implicates are provided to allow users to adjust the
estimated standard errors and confidence intervals to account for the additional variance
that imputation may cause. For additional information, please consult the 2003 Codebook
and Technical Manual, especially Chapter V.
Q: Where is the SAS transport file for the 2003 data?
A: No SAS transport file is provided for the 2003 data due to limitations of the PROC COPY procedure.
Instead, a compressed SAS data set, which can be uncompressed and read into SAS version 7 or higher,
has been provided. This data set may be converted for use with other statistical packages using Stat/Transfer,
DBMS/Copy, or similar programs.
Q: Why did the name change from National Survey of Small Business Finances
to Survey of Small Business Finances?
A: The motive was purely cosmetic, we wanted to shorten the name.
Q: How was employment computed in 1987, 1993, 1998 and 2003 and how can the values among years be compared?
A: In 1987 and 1993, information was collected on paid part-time and paid full-time employment.
TOTEMP = full-time+.5*part-time. In collecting information on full- and part- time workers,
firms were asked to include any owners working in the firm. In 1998 and 2003, information was
collected on the number of employees working in the firm and the number of owners working in
the firm, whether paid or not. In the 1998 and 2003 files, TOTEMP = number of employees + number
of owners working in the firm.
The 1993 TOTEMP can be made somewhat comparable to the 1998 and 2003 TOTEMP by defining a
new TOTEMP variable as the sum of the full-time (A11) and part-time employees (A12).
A similar adjustment can be made for the 1987 TOTEMP, but separate part time and full time
data are not currently available on the 1987 data set. If this information is needed for
research purposes, please contact us and we will make it available to you.
Q: Can I compare the data from the four surveys?
A: Comparisons can be made across survey years, although care must be taken to ensure that the variables
being compared are measuring the same item. There are sometimes subtle differences in the wording or
the manner in which the questions were asked that can affect their comparability across survey years.
Please consult the codebooks and questionnaires paying particular attention to question wording and
skip patterns. In addition, some adjustments to sample weights may be necessary. In particular, to
properly compare the data from the four surveys, the sample weights for 1987 might need to be adjusted
to compensate for frame differences. More information on this is covered in the next FAQ.
Q: Can I compare the data from the 1987 and 1993 surveys?
A: Yes - BUT precautions must be taken. Information on firms for
both surveys were drawn from Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) business
lists. However, the sample frame between 1987 and 1993 changed
because D&B added many firms to the 1993 frame, based on
information from third-party vendors. To properly compare the
data from the two surveys, the sample weights need to be adjusted for 1987.
For more on this topic
see Rebel A. Cole, John D. Wolken, and R. Louise Woodburn, "Bank and
Nonbank Competition for Small Business Credit: Evidence from the
1987 and 1993 National Surveys of Small Business Finances,"
Federal Reserve Bulletin, vol. 82 (November 1996), pp. 938-
Q: How do I determine whether a particular firm is in all the surveys?
A: The surveys are not based on a panel study; they are independent
cross-sections of the small business population. Because the survey
sample was drawn from more than 7.5 million firms each year, it is
unlikely that a firm would be sampled in two surveys and nearly impossible
that a firm would be sampled in all four surveys.
Q: For the 2003 SSBF, how do I determine firm-level variables, including the race, gender,
or ethnicity of the firm's ownership?
A: Please refer to pages 29-31 of the 2003 survey codebook for explanations as to how the
firm-level variables are calculated and several examples of how to use the variables CF_ASIAN,
CF_AS_HA, CF_BLACK, CF_HAWAII, CF_HISP, CF_MINHIS, CF_MINOR, CF_NATIVE, CF_WHITE, CF_W_NH,
CF_FEMALE, CF_AGE, CF_EDUC and CF_EXPER.
Q: For the 1998 SSBF, how do I determine the race, gender, or ethnicity of the firm's ownership?
A: Please refer to pages 26-27 of the 1998 survey codebook for several examples of how to use the variables
C_SEX, C_RACE, C_HIS, and C_MINOR.
Q: For the 1993 NSSBF, how do I determine the race, gender, or ethnicity
of the firm's ownership?
A: Please see pages 18-19 of the codebook (dated 4/7/98) for several
examples, including the difference between the variables GENDER and
GEN_3, MINOR and MIN_3, and HISPAN and HIS_3.
Q: For the sections of the 1998 NSSBF dealing with a firm's balance
sheet, does a missing value for a dollar amount imply $0?
A: There were no entrance questions to the balance sheet on the 1998 survey. All income statement and balance sheet
items are filled in with zero when the amount was reported as zero, including R9 and S5.
Q: For the sections of the 1993 NSSBF dealing with a firm's balance
sheet, does a missing value for a dollar amount imply $0?
A: Yes, as long as the corresponding entrance question for the dollar
amount was answered "No." Example: In the 1993 survey, if question R4 was answered
"No," then question R5 was coded with a ".S." However, this ".S"
Q: Where are appendices B and C of the Methodology Report for the
1993 NSSBF? Why are appendices N, O, P and Q of the Methodology Report for the
1998 SSBF not available in electronic format?
A: Electronic copies of these appendixes were not available to the
survey group. If you are interested in obtaining copies of these
appendixes, please contact the survey group, specifying which appendixes you need and
including your name and mailing address, and we will be happy to mail them out to you.
Q: Is the data for either survey available in printed format?
A: No. The data for the 1993 NSSBF alone consist of almost 5,000
records and more than 1,000 variables. Therefore, the data are
offered only in electronic formats.
Q: Can SPSS read the SAS transport file?
A: Yes. The SAS transport file on this Web site has been created
using SAS's PROC COPY command with the XPORT engine. This is the
exact format needed to read SAS data sets into SPSS. The "GETSAS"
command in SPSS must then be used to read in the SAS transport
Q: The file I downloaded from the SSBF Web site is smaller than the
size listed for that file on the Web site. Why can't I get the
A: Your Internet service provider may have a limit on the size of
files it will allow you to download. A download has been
successful when the size of the downloaded file matches the size
listed on the Web page.
Other comments, questions, or problems?
Please contact us.