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Risk, Uncertainty, and Entrepreneurship: Evidence from a Lab-in-the-Field Experiment

Author

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  • Martin Koudstaal

    (Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Tinbergen Institute, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

  • Randolph Sloof

    (Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Tinbergen Institute, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

  • Mirjam van Praag

    (Department of Innovation and Organizational Economics (INO), Copenhagen Business School, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark; Tinbergen Institute, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Amsterdam School of Economics, University of Amsterdam, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), 53113 Bonn, Germany)

Abstract

Theory predicts that entrepreneurs have distinct attitudes toward risk and uncertainty, but empirical evidence is mixed. To better understand the unique behavioral characteristics of entrepreneurs and the causes of these mixed results, we perform a large “lab-in-the-field” experiment comparing entrepreneurs to managers (a suitable comparison group) and employees ( n = 2,288). The results indicate that entrepreneurs perceive themselves as less risk averse than managers and employees, in line with common wisdom. However, when using experimental incentivized measures, the differences are subtler. Entrepreneurs are only found to be unique in their lower degree of loss aversion, and not in their risk or ambiguity aversion. This combination of results might be explained by our finding that perceived risk attitude is not only correlated to risk aversion but also to loss aversion. Overall, we therefore suggest using a broader definition of risk that captures this unique feature of entrepreneurs: their willingness to risk losses. This paper was accepted by Uri Gneezy, behavioral economics .

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Koudstaal & Randolph Sloof & Mirjam van Praag, 2016. "Risk, Uncertainty, and Entrepreneurship: Evidence from a Lab-in-the-Field Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(10), pages 2897-2915, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:62:y:2016:i:10:p:2897-2915
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2015.2249
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    entrepreneurs; managers; risk aversion; loss aversion; ambiguity aversion; lab-in-the field experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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