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Portfolio businesses

Portfolio businesses

BBCE uses census responses that identify proprietors that have multiple activities: portfolio businesses. Up to eight different business activities per person are captured in the data. This is captured well by the census: about 10% of all employers in each year, and many own account operations have multiple distinct businesses. To be distinct the activity has to be in a different sector; shoe and boot maker would not qualify; grocer and baker, or farmer and butcher would. BBCE cleans these data. Portfolios were only those definitely identified as entrepreneurs: for 1851-1881 from respondents to the employer and own account census question and not the supplemented data; and for 1891-1911 for employers and own-account identified by the employment status question. This means that users should be aware that there are differences in definition and scale between 1851-81, and 1891-1911 (except for portfolios involving farmers). But proportions of the different categories are closely comparable (see Table). The definitions, and relation between first and second businesses by sex, by firm size, and other analysis, is given in The Age of Entrepreneurship Chapter 11, and for farm portfolios is given in a Journal of Rural Studies paper.

% Employers % Own account % Total entrepreneurs
1851 8.7 9.4 9.8
1861 9.7 13.3 10.0
1871 9.2 6.2 8.7
1881 10.3 6.4 8.5
1891 11.1 6.2 8.0
1901 12.6 6.4 8.4
1911 12.1 7.4 9.3

Portfolios percentage of proprietors; E&W [Source: amended from Age of Entrepreneurship Table 11.1]

The Atlas shows portfolio responses for all years. These businesses are very widely distributed, but areas with above average proportions of portfolios were concentrated mainly in Lancashire and the West Riding, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire as well as on urban fringes: portfolio businesses interrelated with heavy industrial areas. However, these concentrations became much less marked after 1901. Elsewhere portfolios were mainly in rural and mixed small town areas, usually on the main rail lines and notably absent in rural Wales and upland locations distant from rail access. The mix of urban opportunity, and rural necessity combined with opportunity, explain most of this pattern. Within the mapping there is a slight general decline of the proportion of businesses with portfolios and then a small increase, as shown in the above table. But in 1911 the patterns changed more.