8(a) Narrative Questions and Answers

When will the SBA ask me what socially disadvantaged group(s) I belong to?

The last question at the bottom of the Individual Information Section of the online 1010 form asks applicants to "identify which of the following presumed socially disadvantaged group(s) they are in." The choices are Asian Pacific Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Sub-Continent Asian Americans and Other.

If you select Asian Pacific Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans or Sub-Continent Asian Americans, you are required to provide a "Narrative Statement of Economic Disadvantage."

If you select "Other" you are not in a group that the SBA presumes to be socially disadvantaged. The online Form 1010 will require you to provide a "Narrative Statement of Economic Disadvantage"  and a "narrative statement and evidence demonstrating discriminatory treatment sufficient to meet the SBA social disadvantage requirement."

How do I know if I am socially disadvantaged?

Generally speaking, if you belong to any of the following four social groups, then the Small Business Administration automatically presumes that you are a “socially disadvantaged” individual, and thus your narrative will concentrate more on examples of economic disadvantage:

  • Black Americans
  • Hispanic Americans (According to its Small Business Development Program Standard Operating Procedure, the SBA has defined “Hispanic American” as an individual whose ancestry and culture are rooted in South America, Central America, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, or the Iberian Peninsula, including Spain and Portugal.)
  • Native Americans (American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native Hawaiians)
  • Asian Pacific Americans (persons with origins from Japan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Samoa, Guam, U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands [Republic of Palau], Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Laos, Cambodia [Kampuchea], Taiwan; Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Macao, Hong Kong, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu, or Nauru;
  • Subcontinent Asian Americans (persons with origins from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives Islands or Nepal).


Are Caucasian women business owners considered socially disadvantaged by the SBA?

Women are not presumed to be socially disadvantaged by the SBA. This is a common misperception about the 8(a) program. Whereas many states do recognize women business owners as socially disadvantaged, at the federal level the SBA does not recognize women as a socially disadvantaged group. Congress has asked the Small Business Administration to establish a woman owned business contracting program for industries in which women are particularly under-represented; however, this program has not yet been formally established. If you are not in one of the groups recognized as socially disadvantaged by the SBA, you may still qualify for the 8(a) program. See the next question titled "What if I'm not in one of the ethnic groups presumed to be socially disadvantaged?"  

What if I’m not in one of the ethnic groups presumed to be socially disadvantaged?

If you are not a Hispanic, Asian, Black or Native American business owner, you may still qualify for the 8(a) program but you will have to prove to the SBA through a “preponderance of the evidence” that you are socially disadvantaged based upon a distinguishing feature such as your gender, disability, culture, ethnicity, or some other specific factor. The Small Business Administration’s definition of “preponderance of the evidence” is not clearly stated; however, what the SBA is looking for is proof through multiple detailed examples that you have experienced chronic, pervasive social disadvantage such as gender discrimination throughout your entire education, career and business life. If you can cite approximately 15-20 specific incidents of disadvantage from your life, then you have a very good chance at successfully proving social disadvantage to the SBA.

From time to time the SBA expands its list of presumed socially disadvantaged groups, but at this time, the groups listed above (Hispanic, Asian, Black and Native Americans) were the only ones designated as presumed to be socially disadvantaged. For the most recent list of already-presumed to be socially disadvantaged groups, please refer to the main SBA 8(a) website at

How do I know if I am economically disadvantaged?

The Small Business Administration defines economically disadvantaged individuals this way: “Economically disadvantaged individuals are socially disadvantaged individuals whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities.”

The Small Business Administration (SBA) evaluates the following core factors when assessing an 8(a) applicant’s economic disadvantage: 

  • The applicant’s personal net worth must be below $250K excluding the equity value of your home, retirement accounts and the value of your business.
  • The total fair market value of all of the applicant’s assets must be under $4M.
  • The applicant’s average personal annual income over the past 3 tax years (called the adjusted gross income) must be below $250K.

If you meet these three core criteria, then most likely the SBA will consider you to be economically disadvantaged.

Need More Help?

Download our industry leading 8(a) Narrative Kit with instructions and SBA approved examples  



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