June 3, 2019

New Data on Employee Ownership from the General Social Survey

The 2018 administration of the General Social Survey (GSS), a long-standing survey of the nation's work force, included a segment on employee ownership. It found that 20% of private-sector workers in the U.S. have some level of ownership in the companies where they work, including 11 million who participate in ESOPs and 25 million with some other form of stock-based compensation. The survey found that among those workers that hold company stock, the average value of that stock was $75,205. Looking only at ESOP participants, the average workers held $134,000.

The study's other author, professor Douglas Kruse, also of Rutgers, noted that employee-owners are "six times less likely to be laid off." The study found that, over the last year, the surveyed non-employee-owners were laid off at a rate of 3.7%, versus 0.6% for the employee-owners. Among companies with employee engagement programs, the study found that companies with generous employee ownership plans had a rate of turnover in general (i.e., including voluntary turnover) of 6%, far less than the 14% rate for those with no stock plan.

For the first time, the GSS included a question asking about preferences for employee-owned companies as employers. Rutgers professor Joseph Blasi, director of the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing and author of the report on the GSS data, said, "Democrat or Republican, female or male, black or white, union or non-union, a majority of respondents said they prefer to work for a company with employee share ownership. It is rare to find such a national consensus on anything." Overall, 72% of respondents said they prefer to work for an employee-owned company over an investor-owned or a state-owned company, including majorities of Democrats, Republications, and independents (74%, 72%, and 67%, respectively).

The GSS data also show that ESOP participants are more likely than non-ESOP participants to have had training in the last year (70% versus 48%), participated in an employee involvement group (36% versus 26%), and access to profit sharing (70% versus 35%).

The Employee Ownership Foundation contracted with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to administer the survey as part of the GSS.