The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction

12 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2010

See all articles by Tim Kane

Tim Kane

Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace; University of Austin

Date Written: July 2010


This paper presents a newly constructed national time series of job creation by startup firms, using annual data from the BDS for age zero firms. Startups create an average of 3 million new jobs annually. All other ages of firms, including companies in their first full years of existence up to firms established two centuries ago, are net job destroyers, losing 1 million jobs net combined per year. Patterns of job growth at startups and existing firms are both pro-cyclical, although existing firms have much more cyclical variance. The implication of this finding could, and perhaps should, shift the standard employment policy paradigm. Policymakers tend to reflect common media stereotypes about job changes in the economy, which is to say a focus on the very large aggregate picture (such as the national or state unemployment rate) or on news of very large layoffs by individual companies. That attention is almost certainly misplaced. Nationwide measures are a blunt tool for analysis, and net employment growth reveals little that policy can affect. Similarly, the common zero-sum attempts to incentivize firm relocation are oblivious to the important pattern of gross job creation revealed by the BDS. States and cities with job creation policies aimed at luring larger, older employers can’t help but fail, not just because they are zero-sum, but because they are not based in realistic models of employment growth. Job growth is driven, essentially entirely, by startup firms that develop organically. To be sure, Survivors create zero to 7 million net jobs (half of which are at establishment births), while Deaths account for a net loss of 4 million to 8 million jobs, which are large flows for the context of the steady job creation of 3 million startup jobs. But, in terms of the life cycle of job growth, policymakers should appreciate the astoundingly large effect of job creation in the first year of a firm’s life. In other words, the BDS indicates that effective policy to promote employment growth must include a central consideration for startup firms.

Part of the Kauffman Foundation Research Series: Firm Formation and Economic Growth

Keywords: job growth, startup, bds, job creation, policy

Suggested Citation

Kane, Tim, The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction (July 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Tim Kane (Contact Author)

Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States

University of Austin

522 Congress Ave. Suite 300
Austin, TX 78701
United States
8332238289 (Phone)

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