Freakonomics Poll: Are you a Scion?

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.

With that in mind, we’d like to take another poll.

[poll id=”14″]


Non-scion in a scionic family - I have a sister who will likely take over my parent's business.


I want to vote, but I don't really fit any of those descriptions particularly neatly. I am taking over the family business, BUT I'm purchasing it from a family member. This family member very nearly sold it to someone else. I just happen to be better at paying off my loans than the other person (non-family) who submitted an offer, otherwise I'm quite certain I would not be the person purchasing this business.


doesn't apply to me, but my grandfather started a business long ago, sold it to someone else, and then bought it back and gave it to his son (my uncle). I'm not sure whether my uncle paid back any of the purchase price. My other two uncles and several cousins work for the company now (in some cases because they had trouble finding other work, but a couple of my cousins got graduate degrees in biochemistry in order to benefit the family business) and I would expect that one of them will take the company over some day.

Joshua Northey

None of those apply to me, but my uncle has an extremely successful small business (It is 25 years old and has supported a pretty nice lifestyle, still only 3-5 employees including him and his wife).

His first son is bright/capable and is already a junior executive at a decent sized financial firm, so I doubt he will get involved with running things. The second son will most likely take over the family business, he has no clear career prospects, and experience working for his father. He was always charismatic and a hard worker, though not particularly bright. But those traits could also describe his father and he has done very well.

Kathy A.

My father offered to let me take over his business and I turned him down. I knew I had no passion or talent for that particular business and that I would not be a success at it. When he decided to retire, he sold it -- a good move, in my opinion.