Andersson, F. W., Johansson, D., Karlsson, J., Lodefalk, M., & Poldahl, A. (in press). The characteristics of family firms: exploiting information on ownership, kinship, and governance using total population data. Small Business Economics. DOI: 10.1007/s11187-017-9947-6

Abstract: Family firms are often considered characteristically different from non-family firms. However, our understanding of family firms suffers from an inability to identify them in total population data; information is rarely available regarding owners, their kinship, and their involvement in firm governance. We present a method for identifying domiciled family firms using register data; this method offers greater accuracy than previous methods. We apply this method to Swedish data concerning firm ownership, governance, and kinship from 2004 to 2010. We find that the family firm is a significant organizational form, contributing over one third of all employment and gross domestic product (GDP). Family firms are common in most industries and range in size. Furthermore, we find that, compared to private non-family firms, family firms have fewer total assets, employment, and sales and carry higher solidity, although family firms are more profitable. These differences diminish with firm size. We conclude that the term “family firm” includes a large variety of firms, and we call for increased attention to their heterogeneity.