A central result in extremal set theory is the celebrated theorem of Sperner from 1928, which gives the size of the largest family of subsets of [n] not containing a 2-chain, F1 ⊂ F2. Erdős extended this theorem to determine the largest family without a k-chain, F1 ⊂ F2 ⊂ . . . ⊂ Fk. Erdős and Katona, followed by Kleitman, asked how many chains must appear in families with sizes larger than the corresponding extremal bounds.
In 1966, Kleitman resolved this question for 2-chains, showing that the number of such chains is minimized by taking sets as close to the middle level as possible. Moreover, he conjectured the extremal families were the same for k-chains, for all k. In this paper, making the first progress on this problem, we verify Kleitman's conjecture for the families whose size is at most the size of the k + 1 middle levels. We also characterize all extremal configurations.