The Economic Future Just Happened

21 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2010

Date Written: June 9, 2009


Amid the worst economic contraction since 1981-82, and possibly the Great Depression, attention has naturally turned toward the silver lining we might be able to find around the gloom. Some have turned toward historical work on the Great Depression, noting the bright spots that existed; others have examined the relationship, if any, between recessions and entrepreneurial activity. By peering into the economic past, we hope to somehow circumvent our very limited prognosticative abilities and answer the question, “What effect do recessions have on new firm formation?”

This research study, analyzing data from the U.S. Census, the Fortune 500, and the Inc. list of America’s fastest-growing companies, presents three main findings: 1. Recessions and bear markets, while they bring pain and often lead to short-term declines in business formation, do not appear to have a significantly negative impact on the formation and survival of new businesses. 2. Well-over half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list, and just under half of the 2008 Inc. list, began during a recession or bear market. We also find that the general pattern of founding years and decades can help tell a story about larger economic trends. 3. Job creation from startups is much less volatile and sensitive to downturns than job creation in the entire economy.

While these data are far from conclusive and can only hint at broader trends, they do illustrate a more fundamental economic reality: each year, new firms steadily recreate the economy, generating jobs and innovations. These companies may be invisible, or they may one day grow into household names. But they constantly come into being as individuals bring forth their economic futures.

Keywords: recession, startup, economic future, bear market, census, fortune 500

Suggested Citation

Stangler, Dane, The Economic Future Just Happened (June 9, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Dane Stangler (Contact Author)

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation ( email )

4801 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2046
United States
816-932-1044 (Phone)

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