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The Bright but Right View? New Evidence on Entrepreneurial Optimism

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  • Bengtsson, Ola

    (Department of Economics, Lund University)

  • Ekeblom, Daniel

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Lund University)

Abstract

Existing empirical evidence suggest that entrepreneurs are optimists, a finding researchers often interpret as evidence of a behavioral bias in entrepreneurial decision-making. We revisit this claim by analyzing an unusually large survey dataset (180,814 responses) that allows us to create a good measure of entrepreneurial optimism. Our measure is based on the individual’s beliefs about nationwide future economic conditions. These beliefs form a good measure of optimism because they, unlike an individual’s beliefs about her own future economic conditions, are completely uncorrelated with the individual’s own life or work situation (which is not optimism). Our data highlight the importance of measuring optimism correctly. About half of the survey respondents differ in their beliefs about nationwide and own conditions. In addition to its conceptual and empirical relevance, our measure of optimism makes it possible to relate an individual’s beliefs to actual outcomes. We can thereby test, in a novel way, whether entrepreneurial optimism is a behavioral bias or not. We first show that entrepreneurs have more favorable beliefs about nationwide conditions. We then show that these entrepreneurs’ beliefs are relatively good predictors of the future. We conclude from these two findings that entrepreneurs are less biased towards optimism than non-entrepreneurs are biased towards pessimism. Additional evidence pertaining to education, which arguably correlates positively with rational decision-making, supports this conclusion. We show that entrepreneurs are more educated and their beliefs about the future are more similar to educated peoples’ beliefs. In summary, our paper documents that entrepreneurial optimism is an important real-world phenomenon, yet, it may not be a behavioral bias that gives rise to irrational decision-making.

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File URL: http://project.nek.lu.se/publications/workpap/papers/WP14_1.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Lund University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2014:1.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 08 Jan 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2014_001

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Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund,Sweden
Phone: +46 +46 222 0000
Fax: +46 +46 2224613
Web page: http://www.nek.lu.se/en
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Keywords: Entrepreneurship; forecast; optimism; survey data;

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References

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  1. Caliendo, Marco & Fossen, Frank M. & Kritikos, Alexander S., 2006. "Risk Attitudes of Nascent Entrepreneurs: New Evidence from an Experimentally Validated Survey," Discussion Papers 252, European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Department of Business Administration and Economics.
  2. Mike Wright & Paul Westhead & Deniz Ucbasaran, 2007. "Internationalization of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and International Entrepreneurship: A Critique and Policy Implications," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(7), pages 1013-1030.
  3. StewartJr., Wayne H. & Watson, Warren E. & Carland, Joann C. & Carland, James W., 1999. "A proclivity for entrepreneurship: A comparison of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and corporate managers," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 189-214, March.
  4. Tobias J. Moskowitz & Annette Vissing-Jørgensen, 2002. "The Returns to Entrepreneurial Investment: A Private Equity Premium Puzzle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 745-778, September.
  5. Mueller, Stephen L. & Thomas, Anisya S., 2001. "Culture and entrepreneurial potential: A nine country study of locus of control and innovativeness," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 51-75, January.
  6. Tobias J. Moskowitz & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "The Returns to Entrepreneurial Investment: A Private Equity Premium Puzzle?," NBER Working Papers 8876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. van Praag, C M & Cramer, J S, 2001. "The Roots of Entrepreneurship and Labour Demand: Individual Ability and Low Risk Aversion," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(269), pages 45-62, February.
  8. Ucbasaran, Deniz & Westhead, Paul & Wright, Mike & Flores, Manuel, 2010. "The nature of entrepreneurial experience, business failure and comparative optimism," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 541-555, November.
  9. Cramer, J. S. & Hartog, J. & Jonker, N. & Van Praag, C. M., 2002. "Low risk aversion encourages the choice for entrepreneurship: an empirical test of a truism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 29-36, May.
  10. de Meza, David & Southey, Clive, 1996. "The Borrower's Curse: Optimism, Finance and Entrepreneurship," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(435), pages 375-86, March.
  11. Stuart Fraser & Francis J. Greene, 2006. "The Effects of Experience on Entrepreneurial Optimism and Uncertainty," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(290), pages 169-192, 05.
  12. Mathew L. A. Hayward & Dean A. Shepherd & Dale Griffin, 2006. "A Hubris Theory of Entrepreneurship," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(2), pages 160-172, February.
  13. Dan Lovallo & Colin Camerer, 1999. "Overconfidence and Excess Entry: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 306-318, March.
  14. Augustin Landier & David Thesmar, 2009. "Financial Contracting with Optimistic Entrepreneurs," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(1), pages 117-150, January.
  15. Cooper, Arnold C. & Woo, Carolyn Y. & Dunkelberg, William C., 1988. "Entrepreneurs' perceived chances for success," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 97-108.
  16. Barton H. Hamilton, 2000. "Does Entrepreneurship Pay? An Empirical Analysis of the Returns to Self-Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 604-631, June.
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