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Returns for Entrepreneurs vs. Employees: The Effect of Education and Personal Control on the Relative Performance of Entrepreneurs vs. Wage Employees


  • van Praag, Mirjam C.

    () (Copenhagen Business School)

  • van Witteloostuijn, Arjen

    () (University of Antwerp)

  • van der Sluis, Justin

    () (University of Amsterdam)


How valuable is education for entrepreneurs' performance as compared to employees'? What might explain any differences? And does education affect peoples' occupational choices accordingly? We answer these questions based on a large panel of US labor force participants. We show that education affects peoples' decisions to become an entrepreneur negatively. We show furthermore that entrepreneurs have higher returns to education than employees (in terms of the comparable performance measure 'income'). This is the case even when estimating individual fixed effects of the differential returns to education for spells in entrepreneurship versus wage employment, thereby accounting for selectivity into entrepreneurial positions based on fixed individual characteristics. We find these results irrespective of whether we control for general ability and/or whether we use instrumental variables to cope with the endogenous nature of education in income equations. Finally, we find (indirect) support for the argument that the higher returns to education for entrepreneurs is due to fewer (organizational) constraints faced by entrepreneurs when optimizing the profitable employment of their education. Entrepreneurs have more personal control over the profitable employment of their human capital than wage employees.

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  • van Praag, Mirjam C. & van Witteloostuijn, Arjen & van der Sluis, Justin, 2009. "Returns for Entrepreneurs vs. Employees: The Effect of Education and Personal Control on the Relative Performance of Entrepreneurs vs. Wage Employees," IZA Discussion Papers 4628, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4628

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Annamária Dézsi-Benyovszki & Tünde Petra Szabó, 2017. "Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs – Do They Differ in Romania?," Acta Oeconomica, Akadémiai Kiadó, Hungary, vol. 67(1), pages 43-61, March.
    2. Marco Caliendo & Frank Fossen & Alexander Kritikos, 2014. "Personality characteristics and the decisions to become and stay self-employed," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 42(4), pages 787-814, April.
    3. Deborah Cobb-Clark, 2015. "Locus of control and the labor market," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-19, December.
    4. André van Stel & Sander Wennekers & Jolanda Hessels & Chantal Hartog, 2011. "Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2010 The Netherlands," Scales Research Reports A201108, EIM Business and Policy Research.
    5. Andrea Asoni & Tino Sanandaji, 2016. "Identifying the effect of college education on business and employment survival," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 46(2), pages 311-324, February.
    6. Alexander Ayogyam, 2012. "Parent Entrepreneurs: to What Extent Can They Influence Their Children to Become Entrepreneurs?," Acta Universitatis Danubius. OEconomica, Danubius University of Galati, issue 3(3), pages 62-75, June.
    7. Joern H. Block & Lennart Hoogerheide & Roy Thurik, 2010. "Are Education and Entrepreneurial Income Endogenous and do Family Background Variables make Sense as Instruments? A Bayesian Analysis," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 10-024/4, Tinbergen Institute.
    8. Bosma, Niels & Hessels, Jolanda & Schutjens, Veronique & Praag, Mirjam Van & Verheul, Ingrid, 2012. "Entrepreneurship and role models," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 410-424.

    More about this item


    entrepreneurship; self-employment; returns to education; performance; personal control; locus of control; human capital; wages; incomes;

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations
    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups

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