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Don't Quit Your Day Job: Using Wage and Salary Earnings to Support a New Business


  • Monica Garcia-Perez
  • Christopher Goetz
  • John Haltiwanger
  • Kristin Sandusky


This paper makes use of a newly constructed Census Bureau dataset that follows the universe of sole proprietors, employers and non-employers, over 10 years and links their transitions to their activity as employees earning wage and salary income. By combining administrative data on sole proprietors and their businesses with quarterly administrative data on wage and salary jobs held by the same individuals both preceding and concurrent with business startup, we create the unique opportunity to quantify significant workforce dynamics that have up to now remained unobserved. The data allow us to take a first glimpse at these business owners as they initiate business ventures and make the transition from wage and salary work to business ownership and back. We find that the barrier between wage and salary work and self-employment is extremely fluid, with large flows occurring in both directions. We also observe that a large fraction of business owners takeon both roles simultaneously and find that this labor market diversification does have implications for the success of the businesses these owners create. The results for employer transitions to exit and non-employer suggest that there is a ”don’t quit your day job” effect that is present for new businesses. Employers are more likely to stay employers if they have a wage and salary job in the year just prior to the transitions that we are tracking. It is especially important to have a stable wage and salary job but there is also evidence that higher earnings from the wage and salary job makes transition less likely. For nonemployers we find roughly similar patterns but there are some key differences. We find that having recent wage and salary income (and having higher earnings from such wage and salary activity) increases the likelihood of survival. Having recent stable wage and salary income decreases the likelihood of a complete exit but increases the likelihood of transiting to be an employer. Having recent wage and salary income in the same industry as the non-employer business has a large and positive impact on the likelihood of transiting to being a non-employer business.

Suggested Citation

  • Monica Garcia-Perez & Christopher Goetz & John Haltiwanger & Kristin Sandusky, 2013. "Don't Quit Your Day Job: Using Wage and Salary Earnings to Support a New Business," Working Papers 13-45, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:13-45

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Haltiwanger & Ron S. Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2010. "Who Creates Jobs? Small vs. Large vs. Young," Working Papers 10-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    2. Philippe Aghion & Thibault Fally & Stefano Scarpetta, 2007. "Credit constraints as a barrier to the entry and post-entry growth of firms," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 731-779, October.
    3. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger & Ronald S. Jarmin & C.J. Krizan & Javier Miranda & Alfred Nucci & Kristin Sandusky, 2009. "Measuring the Dynamics of Young and Small Businesses: Integrating the Employer and Nonemployer Universes," NBER Chapters,in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 329-366 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Jason DeBacker & Bradley Heim & Vasia Panousi & Shanthi Ramnath & Ivan Vidangos, 2012. "The properties of income risk in privately held businesses," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-69, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    1. repec:bla:jemstr:v:26:y:2017:i:1:p:3-34 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Christopher Goetz & Henry Hyatt & Erika McEntarfer & Kristin Sandusky, 2016. "The Promise and Potential of Linked Employer-Employee Data for Entrepreneurship Research," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring Entrepreneurial Businesses: Current Knowledge and Challenges, pages 433-462 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Robert W. Fairlie & Javier Miranda, 2017. "Taking the Leap: The Determinants of Entrepreneurs Hiring Their First Employee," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(1), pages 3-34, February.

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    firm survival; self-employment; startups; firm dynamics;

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