Small Business Assistance Programs in the United States

An Analysis of What They Are, How Well They Perform, and How We Can Learn More About Them

Published in: International Review of Entrepreneurship, v. 8, no. 3, 2010, p. 1-32

by Qian Gu, Lynn A. Karoly, Julie Zissimopoulos

Read More

Access further information on this document at

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

The vital importance of small businesses in the American economy has prompted federal and state governments and private organizations to implement various programs to facilitate small business creation and expansion. Yet our understanding is limited about the effects of these small business assistance programs, the features that make programs effective, and who benefits from the programs. This study documents the most important public and private programs designed to promote self-employment and small business creation and critically examines the existing research on the effect of those programs. We find that business and self-employment assistance programs are heterogeneous in important dimensions. Our understanding of the effects of business assistance programs is far from complete and the methodological challenges in identifying the effect of business assistance programs on business outcomes are, in part, a result of data limitations and the lack of experimental design in program evaluations.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.