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Study Shows Rise in 'Jobless Entrepreneurship
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

April, 2011

The annual Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity shows that, while the 2010 startup rate remains the highest in fifteen years, lack of other options may have pressed more individuals into business ownership, most of them are going it alone, rather than starting companies that employ others.


During the Great Recession, more Americans have become entrepreneurs than at any time in the past 15 years. However, while the economy and its high unemployment rates may have pressed more individuals into business ownership, most of them are going it alone, rather than starting companies that employ others.

According to the "Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity," a leading indicator of new business creation in the United States, 0.34 percent of American adults created a business per month in 2010, or 565,000 new businesses, a rate that remained consistent with 2009 and represents the highest level of entrepreneurship over the past decade and a half. In contrast, however, the quarterly employer firm rate has dropped from 0.13 percent in 2007 to 0.10 percent in 2010.

"Since it began, the recession has triggered annual declines in the rate of employer enterprise births," said Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation. "Far too many founders are choosing jobless entrepreneurship, preferring to remain self-employed or to avoid assuming the economic responsibility of hiring employees. This trend, if it continues, could have both short- and long-term impacts on economic growth and job creation."

Capturing new business owners in their first month of significant business activity, the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activityprovides the earliest documentation of new-business development across the country. The percentage of the adult, non-business-owner population that starts a business each month is measured using data from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS), conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to this overall rate of entrepreneurial activity, the Kauffman Index presents separate estimates for specific demographic groups, states and select metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). It provides the only national measure of business creation by specific demographic groups.

New 2010 data allow for an update to previous reports, revealing important shifts in the national level of entrepreneurial activity, and in the demographic and geographic composition of new entrepreneurs across the country between 1996 and 2010. View an interactive data visualization spanning all 15 years of the study  

Entrepreneurship rates by race show that Latinos experienced the largest entrepreneurial activity increase between 2009 and 2010. The Latino business-creation rate rose from 0.46 percent in 2009 to 0.56 percent in 2010, the highest rate over the 15 years of Index data. The Asian entrepreneurial activity rate increased from 0.31 percent in 2009 to 0.37 percent in 2010, also the highest rate in the past decade and a half. Both African-Americans and non-Latino whites, on the other hand, experienced declines in entrepreneurial activity rates.

Entrepreneurship growth was highest among 35- to 44-year-olds, rising from 0.35 in 2008 to 0.40 in 2009. The oldest age group in the study (55-64 years) also experienced a large increase in business-creation rates from 2008 to 2009, contributing to a two-year upward trend to 0.40.

Among states, Nevada and Georgia had the highest entrepreneurial activity rates, with 510 per 100,000 adults creating businesses each month. Rounding out the top five highest rates were California (470 per 100,000 adults), Louisiana (460 per 100,000 adults) and Colorado, with 450 businesses started per 100,000 adults. The five states with the lowest rates of entrepreneurial activity were West Virginia (170 per 100,000 adults), Pennsylvania (180 per 100,000 adults), Wisconsin (180 per 100,000 adults), South Dakota (190 per 100,000 adults) and Indiana (190 per 100,000 adults).

"Regional patterns have a significant effect on entrepreneurial activity rates," said Robert W. Fairlie, the studys author and director of the masters program in applied economics and finance at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "From 2009 to 2010, entrepreneurial activity rates increased in the West, further widening the gap between the West and other regions. Rates in the South remained steady, but declined in the Northeast and Midwest."

Other key findings for 2010 include:

  • The immigrant rate of entrepreneurial activity increased substantially – from 0.51 percent in 2009 to 0.62 percent in 2010 – and declined slightly for the native-born. This increase expanded the large positive gap that already existed between immigrant and native-born entrepreneurial activity rates. 
  • A growing immigrant population and rising entrepreneurship rate contributed to a rise in the share of new entrepreneurs that are immigrant, from 13.4 percent in 1996 to 29.5 percent in 2010.
  • Entrepreneurial activity increased slightly for men and decreased slightly for women. For men, the entrepreneurial activity rate increased from 0.43 percent in 2009 to 0.44 percent in 2010. The female entrepreneurship rate decreased from 0.25 percent to 0.24 percent.
  • The African-American entrepreneurial activity rate decreased from 0.27 percent in 2009 to 0.24 percent in 2010. The white entrepreneurial activity rate decreased from 0.33 percent to 0.31 percent.
  • The entrepreneurship index was highest among the least-educated group, moving from 0.49 percent in 2009 to 0.59 percent in 2010, suggesting an increased number of people entering entrepreneurship out of necessity. The largest decrease in entrepreneurial activity occurred for high school graduates.
  • Among the United States fifteen largest metropolitan statistical areas, Los Angeles had the highest entrepreneurial rate (0.62 percent) in 2010. Philadelphia had the lowest rate (0.15 percent)

 



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