45 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2016 Last revised: 21 Oct 2021
Date Written: April 29, 2021
Conventional wisdom suggests labor market distress drives workers into temporary self-employment, lowering entrepreneurial quality. Analyzing employment histories for 640,000 U.S. workers, we document graduating college during a period of high unemployment does increase entry to entrepreneurship. However, compared to voluntary entrepreneurs, firms founded by forced entrepreneurs are more likely to survive, innovate, and receive venture-backing. Explaining these results, we confirm labor shocks disproportionately impact high-earners and these same workers start more successful firms. Overall, we document untapped entrepreneurial potential across the top of the income distribution and demonstrate the role of recessions in reversing this missing entrepreneurship.
Keywords: Entrepreneurship, labor markets, recessions, innovation, venture capital
JEL Classification: L26, L25, M13, J23, E32, O31, G02
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