Can Income Diversification Explain the Growing Entrepreneurship Gap by Age?

Published in: Forum for Social Economics, Volume 46 [May 2017], Number 2, pages 145-159. doi: 10.1080/07360932.2017.1307136

Posted on RAND.org on August 15, 2017

by Christian E. Weller, Jeffrey B. Wenger

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Entrepreneurship has declined among households younger than 50 years, while it has grown among older households over the past few decades. We hypothesize that this divergence results from younger households having less diversified income from sources unrelated to business income such as capital income and annuity income than is the case for older households. Using data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finance, we calculate descriptive and multivariate statistics. We find that income diversification from capital income has declined for both younger and older households, while the role of income diversification in people working as entrepreneurs has fallen among younger households and stayed constant among older ones. We also find some tentative evidence that income diversification from Social Security and annuity income plays a role in determining entrepreneurship for older households, but has no effect among younger households. Our results suggest that cash income, unrelated to risky business income, plays a crucial role in determining entrepreneurship and could explain the divergent entrepreneurship experience between younger and older households.

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