similar regime is also being considered for adoption in Denmark and the Netherlands.

It is apparent that a central business register and the information it contains are essential to driving the kind of burden management system described here. Thus, we turn now to describing the characteristics of the ideal business register, before moving on to more general aspects of the business data system.


Ideal Business Register Characteristics

The ideal business register is no doubt more easily described than created. Nonetheless, it is important to first consider the ideal, before turning to the possible, especially since what is feasible tomorrow will be different from what is feasible today. A business register must first be comprehensive; it must cover the entire business population of firms conducting business in the United States. The implication, then, is that the ideal register would include not only employer businesses, but also nonemployers, and would pick up firm births and deaths with very little lag. Although 100-percent inclusion rates are impossible to attain, the coverage must still be substantial and known. The business register should also indicate the enterprise structure of a firm, such that subsidiaries and multiple work sites are apparent, and mergers, acquisitions, and other status changes are reflected in a timely fashion. To maximize the value of a business register as a sampling frame, these data items must be included and should be available to all approved users of a register (including those positioned beyond the Census Bureau and BLS). In order to manage respondent burden, it is necessary to maintain a complete record of the sampling histories of firms and establishments. As noted above, this would include recording which survey samples the business has been selected into and what the reporting history was for that survey. Note that the complete contact information must also be included.

An additional set of items should ideally be linkable to these core business register items, with appropriate safeguards for confidentiality. First, given the importance of the ability to analyze the entrepreneurial process, indicators of both firm size and ownership type should be available, with owner demographics provided for privately held firms. Because small-domain estimates are important, detailed geocodes, industry codes, and product codes are essential. In order to link different aspects of the data with the main business register, a unique identifier is also needed (see below).

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