Employment and Jobs

Employee Ownership and ESOPs: What We Know from Recent Research

April 8, 2024  • Joseph Blasi & Douglas Kruse

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Employee share ownership has a long and important tradition in the US. As of 2021 approximately 18% of employees have some form of ownership stake in the company where they work. Employees participating in ownership in the US do so through a variety of means, including employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), equity compensation programs, worker-owned cooperatives, and employeeowned trusts (EOTs). About 10.7 million active employees participate in ESOPs, while another 4 million retired ESOP employees are still receiving ESOP benefits. An estimated 11 million employees participate in different combinations of equity compensation plans, including grants of restricted stock, stock options, and employee stock purchase plans.

Estimates show that approximately 10,000 workers are employed in between 900 and 1,000 worker-owned cooperatives, with a growing number of employees in 31 Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs). In this short brief, we provide some updated statistics and analysis regarding workers’ participation in employee share ownership plans and the wealth and job quality benefits those workers realize from their participation. ESOPs are the most common form of broad-based employee share ownership in the US, and, likely for that reason, there are more robust data related to ESOPs. For these reasons, this brief focuses primarily on workers who participate in ESOPs.


We are pleased to present this brief as part of the Employee Ownership Ideas Forum, a two-day convening bringing together leading policymakers, practitioners, experts, and the media for a robust discussion on how we can grow employee ownership for the shared benefit of American workers and businesses. The Forum is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University.