U.S. Census Bureau claims on Indian business ownership

I have taken exception in the past with 1997 and 2002 U.S. Census and U.S. Department of Commerce estimated statistics on the number of American Indian owned businesses. Robert J. Miller, Reservation "Capitalism:" Economic Development in Indian Country 124 (Praeger Publishers, 2012).

There are currently several recent press stories about Census Bureau reports on this same subject.

See, for example, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_521e291c-5298-11e0-b60a-001cc4c03286.html

This 2011 newspaper story reports in relevant part:  "The number of privately owned Native American businesses in South Dakota grew by 32 percent between 2002 and 2007, according new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. But despite an increase of 426 minority-owned firms in five years, there is a significant “entrepreneurial disparity gap” that exists between minority and nonminority owners in both South Dakota and the U.S. nationwide, experts say.

. . .  Native American-owned firms, defined by the Census Bureau as any firm with at least 51 percent of its equity ownership or stock controlled by a Native owner, represented only 2.2 percent of South Dakota’s 77,036 businesses in 2007. That is far lower than the 8.8 percent that Native Americans currently compose of the state’s total population."
 
. . . "Nationwide, 236,967 firms, out of more than 27 million, were owned by Native Americans or Alaska Natives in 2007, an increase of more than 17 percent, but still slightly less than 1 percent of all American businesses."
 
. . . "Indigenous firms outpaced the growth of businesses in the general population during that time, but jobs and wealth creation are nonetheless failing to materialize in those communities, said Don Chapman, senior advisor on Native American Affairs with the U.S. Department of Commerce."
 
“Eight of the 10 poorest counties in the U.S. are home to Indian reservations,” [a representative of the National Congress of American Indians] said during a teleconference last week with Census officials."
 
My critique of the federal estimate of the numbers of Indian owned business arises from the lack of information needed to make these estimates in the 1997 and 2002 estimates I mention above.
 
In reporting these new numbers, the Census says it does not include business owned by tribal governments in this survey of Indian owned private enterprises but it did do so and radically skewed the numbers in its 1997 and 2002 estimates.

 

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