System Working Paper 17-23
Published October 18, 2017
The presence of employers and jobs on American Indian reservations has been difficult to analyze due to limited data. We are the first to geocode confidential data on employer establishments from the U.S. Census Longitudinal Business Database to identify location on or off American Indian reservations. We identify the per capita establishment count and jobs in reservation-based employer establishments for most federally recognized reservations. Comparisons to nearby non-reservation areas in the lower 48 states across 18 industries reveal that reservations have a similar sectoral distribution of employer establishments but have significantly fewer of them in nearly all sectors, especially when the area population is below 15,000 (as it is on the vast majority of reservations and for the majority of the reservation population). By contrast, the total number of jobs provided by reservation establishments is, on average, at par with or somewhat higher than in nearby county areas but is concentrated among casino-related and government employers. An implication is that average job numbers per establishment are higher in these sectors on reservations, including those with populations below 15,000, while the remaining industries are typically sparser within reservations (in firm count and jobs per capita). Geographic and demographic factors, such as population density and per capita income, statistically account for some but not all of these differences.