We had a poll earlier this week that asked: should you give your kids the company? That's the question of our latest podcast and hour-long Freakonomics Radio special “The Church of Scionology.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.) At this post's publishing date, over 80% of those who voted chose that they would give their business to their children -- if their heirs were competent and wanted the job.
The data on how many family businesses there are in the U.S. is sketchy; an often-quoted number is that 90% of all businesses are family businesses. But that comes from a paper written in the 1980s. A more reliable figure comes from Ronald C. Anderson and David M. Reeb; their 2003 paper measured founding family ownership present in 35% of firms in the S&P 500. Some estimates say that family businesses account for as much as 50% of the U.S. GDP.