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The Divide between Subsistence and Transformational Entrepreneurship

In: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 10

  • Antoinette Schoar

This paper argues that it is crucially important to differentiate between two very distinct sets of entrepreneurs: subsistence and transformational entrepreneurs. Recent evidence suggests that people engaging in these two types of entrepreneurship are not only very distinct in nature but that only a negligible fraction of them transition from subsistence to transformational entrepreneurship. These individuals vary in their economic objectives, their skills, and their role in the economy. Most important, they seem to respond very differently to policy changes and economic cycles. Yet most development policies aimed at fostering entrepreneurship focus on subsistence entrepreneurship in the hope of creating transformational entrepreneurs. I argue that unless we understand the differences between those two types of entrepreneurs more clearly, many policy interventions may have unintended consequences and may even have an adverse impact on the economy.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Josh Lerner & Scott Stern, 2010. "Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 10," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lern09-1, September.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11765.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11765
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    1. Ximena Peña Parga & Camilo Mondragón-Vélez, 2008. "Business Ownership and Self-Employment in Developing Economies: The Colombian Case," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 004672, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    2. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2934, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Eric J. Bartelsman & John Haltiwanger & Stefano Scarpetta, 2004. "Microeconomic Evidence of Creative Destruction in Industrial and Developing Countries," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 04-114/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. Josh Lerner & Antoinette Schoar, 2010. "International Differences in Entrepreneurship," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lern08-2, September.
    5. Takatoshi Ito & Andrew K. Rose, 2009. "Financial Sector Development in the Pacific Rim, East Asia Seminar on Economics, Volume 18," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ito_07-2, September.
    6. 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.
    7. Blanchflower, David G & Oswald, Andrew J, 1998. "What Makes an Entrepreneur?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 26-60, January.
    8. Douglas Holtz-Eakin & David Joulfaian & Harvey S. Rosen, 1993. "Sticking it Out: Entrepreneurial Survival and Liquidity Constraints," NBER Working Papers 4494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2008. "Who are the microenterprise owners ? Evidence from Sri Lanka on Tokman v. de Soto," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4635, The World Bank.
    10. Silvia Ardagna & Annamaria Lusardi, 2008. "Explaining International Differences in Entrepreneurship: The Role of Individual Characteristics and Regulatory Constraints," NBER Working Papers 14012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Rajkamal Iyer & Antoinette Schoar, 2010. "Are there Cultural Determinants of Entrepreneurship?," NBER Chapters, in: International Differences in Entrepreneurship, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Erik Hurst & Annamaria Lusardi, 2004. "Liquidity Constraints, Household Wealth, and Entrepreneurship," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 319-347, April.
    13. Ana María Herrera & Eduardo Lora, 2005. "Why So Small? Explaining the Size of Firms in Latin America," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(7), pages 1005-1028, 07.
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