Business ownership: Race and gender should not be a barrier to owning a business. 

Insights & Analyses

  • In 2018, racial inequities in firm ownership are far more severe among firms with paid employees than among nonemployer firms.
  • Among firms with paid employees in 2020, the rate of business ownership for white workers is nearly four times higher than for Latinx workers and 7 times higher than for Black workers. 
  • Among nonemployer firms, the number of Native American and Pacific Islander-owned firms grew the most from 2017-2020. 
  • Among firms with paid employees overall, and for white and black-owned firms, firm growth was strongest in the utilities industry from 2017-20120. For Asian-owned firms, growth was strongest in the real estate and rental and leasing industry, while for Latino-owned firms growth was strongest in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry.
  • Among firms with paid employees, the number of women-owned firms and men-owned firms per 100 workers increased slightly from 2007 to 2020, but there are still about four firms owned by a man for every one firm owned by a woman.

Drivers of Inequity


People of color are less likely than white people to have access to capital and contracts to start and grow a business, due in part to historical policies such as redlining that denied home loans and wealth-building opportunities to people of color. Today, business loan denial rates for firms owned by people of color are more than twice as high compared to white-owned businesses Business owners of color also pay higher interest rates and receive lower loan and equity investments. During the shelter-in-place phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, racial discrimination among lenders prevented many entrepreneurs of color from accessing paycheck protection program loans. Underrepresented groups also often face barriers to accessing important networks and training programs for maintaining a successful business.


Grow an equitable economy: Policies to ensure equitable entrepreneurship opportunities

Strategy in Action

The City of Atlanta invests in local Black- and women-owned businesses. The Atlanta, Georgia, metropolitan area is one of the most prominent hubs for Black-owned businesses in the entire country: as of 2021, slightly more than 7 percent of regional businesses were Black-owned, one of the highest rates nationwide. Central to this success are business development initiatives designed to surmount historical barriers to business ownership for people of color and women. The City of Atlanta’s official economic development authority, Invest Atlanta, operates multiple programs that seek to cultivate residents of color and/or women as small business owners. Most recently, in 2022 Invest Atlanta partnered with United Way to create the Atlanta Open for Business Fund, which offers a trio of programs: a low-interest recovery loan fund, grants to improve the upkeep of commercial properties, and assistance with down payments on new commercial properties. Funded by a $20 million Wells Fargo donation, Atlanta Open for Business provided half a million dollars in recovery loans in its first year of operations. Learn more. 


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